Californians who own land that they want to protect from development after they’re gone can purchase a conservation easement. An easement offers protection in perpetuity for land from any use that the owner believes would conflict with their goals for it or compromise its value.
Each easement is unique. A landowner may want to protect open space from encroachment that could harm wildlife. Another landowner may want their land to be used for farming, horse breeding or other purposes. The purpose of most easements is to limit or prohibit non-agricultural, commercial uses and preserve the land for wildlife or simply open space.
How conservation easements protect land
Conservation easements are a crucial part of estate planning for landowners because they continue in perpetuity. That means that anyone who owns the land in the future, including any family members who might inherit it, must abide by its terms. A land trust or other type of easement holder is responsible for ensuring that they don’t violate these terms. California has over 150 land trusts that protect over 2.5 million acres.
Conservation easements can reduce estate taxes for beneficiaries. This makes it easier for families to afford to keep all of the land they inherit so that they don’t have to sell any part of it. If you choose to donate your easement to a qualified organization, you can also get an income tax deduction.
If you’re interested in preserving your land long after you’re gone, find out more about conservation easements and how you can fit them into your estate planning goals.