Please help us save the special places in Wareham before it’s too late. Consider conserving your land with the Wareham Land Trust. If you own land and want to protect it, the Wareham Land Trust may be able to help. Below are some common conservation methods used to protect land from development. There are other arrangements that can be pursued if nothing on this list fits your needs. Please contact us for a private consultation if you have any questions.
Donating land is the most straightforward method of land protection. When land is given for conservation purposes, the Wareham Land Trust ensures that the land has permanent protection and will keep the land in its natural state in perpetuity. Donations of non-conservation property are occasionally accepted. The Wareham Land Trust may trade this land for other land or sell it to generate funds for conservation use.
The donor of any land to the Wareham Land Trust may be eligible to receive significant tax benefits, including an income tax deduction for the value of the property, estate tax reductions, and a Massachusetts state income tax credit.
Donate Land by Bequest
Donating land through a will, also known as a bequest, entitles the landowner to own, manage, and enjoy the land during their lifetime while having the peace of mind that it will be cared for in the future. The landowner remains responsible for maintenance and real estate taxes on the property until it is donated. There is no income tax benefit, however donating land by bequest removes the property from the estate and can significantly reduce the estate tax burden faced by heirs. A bequest is relatively simple to prepare and can be amended should circumstances or intentions change. It is advisable to discuss a land donation by bequest with the Wareham Land Trust before its inclusion in a will.
Donate a Conservation Restriction
A Conservation Restriction (CR) is a legal agreement between a landowner and the Wareham Land Trust that permanently protects land for its conservation values. A CR restricts development of the property but allows the landowner to continue to own, manage, and sell the land. Some concessions may be allowed such as planting a garden, building a small outbuilding, or replacing a driveway. A conservation restriction is permanent and remains with the property in perpetuity; future owners of the land will be bound by the CR’s terms. The WLT monitors the land and ensures the terms of the CR are followed. A CR may apply to all or a portion of the property; public access to the property is not required for a donated CR.
While most people donate CRs because of their love of the land and their desire to see it protected for future generations, there are also significant tax benefits associated with a CR donation. These tax benefits can include: Federal income tax deduction, lower real estate tax, and estate tax reduction. The value of a conservation restriction donation (for tax purposes) is typically the difference between the value of the property without the restriction and its value with the restriction.
In general, in order to be tax-deductible, the CR: must be given in perpetuity (must be permanent), must be given to a qualified governmental or non-profit organization (like the WLT), must have a qualified appraisal to determine the value of the CR, and must be donated exclusively for conservation purposes (the property must have some significant natural, scenic, historic, scientific, recreational, or open space value and the restriction must protect those values).
Donate a Remainder Interest or Life Estate
A life estate or gift of remainder interest allows the landowner to donate property, while reserving the right to continue using the property during their lifetime or for a specified period of time. The donor is responsible for property taxes while they own the property and may be entitled to a tax deduction in the year of the donation. The tax advantage is less than for an outright donation but greater than a donation by bequest.
The Wareham Land Trust has limited resources available for purchasing land, but we sometimes raise funds for outstanding projects. We are usually unable to pay fair market value. A “Bargain Sale” is part sale and part donation, entitling the seller to a tax benefit based on the difference between the sale price and the fair market value as determined by a qualified appraiser.
An “Installment Sale” creates an agreement whereby the seller receives payment over a period of years. This allows the seller to spread out tax benefits and gives the WLT more time to raise funds to purchase the property.
Other Types of Land Conservation
A landowner may place a “term deed restriction” on their property to protect some of its features and control its future use. However, it is the least-preferred option in land protection because it does not remain with a property’s title in perpetuity and it can be rendered unenforceable under certain conditions. Under Massachusetts Law a deed restriction may be placed on a property for no more than thirty years and then the holder of the restriction must re-record it prior to its expiration. No income or estate tax benefits are associated with a deed restriction because of its temporary nature.
The “Agricultural Preservation Restriction” (APR) Program, administered by the Massachusetts Department Agricultural Resources, protects farmland by purchasing the development rights from willing agricultural landowners. The program offers to pay landowners the difference between the fair market value and the agricultural value of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction that precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability. The APR program is highly competitive and is intended to offer a non-development alternative to farmers and other owners of prime agricultural land.