Easement Transaction Process
Once a landowner(s) has made the decision to place a conservation easement on their property with the Upper Trinity Conservation Trust (UTCT), there are several steps that must take place. Throughout the process, UTCT strongly recommends the landowner(s) seek independent legal, financial and tax advice, as well as other family members and heirs. UTCT will work closely with the landowner(s) to meet their goal of land preservation. Below is an overview of the steps UTCT will take with the landowner.
Step 1. Initial Discussion and Site Visit
Interested landowners are encouraged to contact UTCT about the possibility of placing a conservation easement on their property. Items to discuss include size of the property, current land uses, natural features, landowner(s) goals for future use of their property, etc.
UTCT Staff will then walk the property with the landowner(s) and complete a ‘Project Selection Criteria and Checklist’ to ensure the property meets the mission of UTCT and identify the conservation values of the property. UTCT Staff will review the Checklist with the landowner and ask additional questions to ensure the information is correct.
Step 2. Board Approval
As a non-profit organization, the UTCT is managed by a
Step 3. Independent Legal and Tax Advice
During the conservation easement process, UTCT strongly encourages landowners to meet with their attorney and financial advisors to review the documents prior to being signed. UTCT does not provide legal or financial advice but would recommend seeking out professionals who have experience in conservation easement transactions.
Step 4. Drafting of the Easement
Based on the landowner’s goals and desires for current and future uses of the property, UTCT will draft a conservation easement that reflects the landowner’s wishes, as well as ensuring the conservation values are protected in perpetuity. A strong document will ensure the easement stays with the land in perpetuity and provides flexibility for the landowner and future owners to live on and use the land in mutually agreed upon ways.
Step 5. Appraisal
Once the easement document as written is agreed upon by both parties, a qualified independent appraiser will need to assess the value of the donated easement. The appraiser will assess and compare the value of the property with and without a conservation easement, the difference of which will be considered the value of the easement. This is required when seeking a federal income tax deduction and will need to be done by the landowner. The appraiser must follow the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.
Step 6. Baseline Report
UTCT will conduct a baseline assessment of the property to record the current land uses and natural features of the property and will include the conservation values of the property, building envelopes, if any, and existing structures. Since the conservation easement will be protecting the conservation values of the property, documenting this is an important step, particularly if a landowner is seeking a federal income tax deduction for the donated conservation easement. Depending on the size and complexity of the property, the landowner may be required to pay for the baseline assessment.
Step 7. Stewardship Endowment
A one-time donation is requested from the landowner for UTCT’s stewardship fund for perpetual annual monitoring of the land, as required by the IRS, and insurance. This is calculated based on property size, time needed to evaluate the property annually and produce the report, and distance from UTCT’s office. This one-time contribution may also be tax deductible.
Step 8. Executing the Easement
Once all the documents have been prepared and the landowner completely understands and agrees with the uses and restrictions of the conservation easement, the documents are signed and filed at the county clerk's office. The conservation easement now binds the landowner and all the subsequent owners to the conservation easement's restrictions.
Step 9. Monitoring and Stewardship
UTCT staff will coordinate with the landowner to visit the property once a year to ensure the easement requirements are being followed, and to discuss any plans the landowner may have to improve the conservation values of the property. UTCT staff will then produce a written report detailing the condition of the property based on this visit. The landowner may contact UTCT at any time to discuss ways to improve or partner together on stewardship of the property.
The steps above are in accord with the Land Trust Alliance’s