Conservation Easements: Go Big or Go Home

Briefly, creating a conservation easement can allow you to receive good by doing good. Consider creating one on your  property to protect

“natural, scenic, or open space values of [that] real property, assuring its availability for agricultural, forest, recreational or open space use, protecting natural resources, maintaining or enhancing air or water quality, or preserving the historical, architectural, archeological or cultural aspects of real property”

HeartMt_431511_10150848522799638_729014637_12580484_639413481_nand you might receive a variety of tax benefits, including a reduction in property taxes and a charitable deduction that can be carried forward on future tax returns, among other things. For a farmer or rancher, the easement can have the added benefit of ensuring the farm or ranch stays in the family, because, according to G. Bruce Chilcott and Erin Johnson,

“with most or all of the development potential given away in the easement, the next generation doesn’t have the usual incentive to sell or develop [the property] in a residential or commercial manner.” (Long-Term Planning Issues for Farm and Ranch Owners, Wealth Counsel Quarterly)

The steps to create one are outlined in the Utah and Wyoming state codes and are not particularly hard to follow. But, Chilcott and Johnson caution, don’t go the cheap route. Get it done correctly. In particular, they say,

“In creating a conservation easement, the key to achieving the desired tax benefits is the appraisal. This is no place to skimp on costs or quality, and the appraiser must have special qualifications and significant experience in this arena.”

Make sure you choose an appraiser with a good track record regarding farm and ranch appraisals for conservation easement purposes because “the quality of the appraisal can be instrumental in getting the eventual approval of the department of revenue.”

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