Donating Land by Will
Some landowners prefer to continue holding land during their lifetimes, transferring it to a land trust or government agency by will (commonly referred to as a bequest but more correctly termed a devise or a donation by devise).
Before writing a devise into your will, make sure the chosen recipient is willing and able to receive the gift. Because organizational priorities and objectives can change, it’s best to name an alternate recipient qualified to accept charitable gifts (whose agreement should also be secured) in case the primary organization cannot accept the gift at your death. Your will can also specify conditions that would prompt the land’s transfer to another qualified charity should the primary recipient fail to use the land as specified.
Inquire about the organization’s monetary needs for owning and maintaining the property: in addition to the gift of title, you may want to consider a cash contribution to help assure the property’s long-term stewardship.
With a donation by will, there are no income tax benefits and you are responsible for property taxes during your lifetime, but the land will not be taxed as part of your estate.
Using three consecutive conservation easements and a donation, Albert and Marion Chatfield protected their spectacular saltwater farm in Rockport. © SARA GRAY
Donating Land by Will
For half a century, Albert H. Chatfield, Jr. and his wife Marion lived and worked at Aldermere Farm, a 136-acre collage of fields and woods bordering Penobscot Bay. In 1953, the Chatfields acquired several Belted Galloway cattle from Scotland, establishing what is now the oldest continuously operated “Beltie” herd in the United States. Their farm, with its open vistas and handsome cows, soon became a scenic landmark in midcoast Maine. Nano Chatfield describes her grandfather Albert as “a man ahead of his time, a real visionary who acted as a landscape architect.”
Albert and Marion Chatfield were among the first landowners in Maine to grant conservation easements that prevented future subdivision or development of their property. Maine Coast Heritage Trust helped to facilitate three easements on their farm in the 1970s and 1980s, working with the easement holder—the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Through that process, Mr. Chatfield gained a better understanding of the Trust’s mission and work.
Following Mrs. Chatfield’s demise in 1993, Mr. Chatfield asked MCHT to consider taking ownership of the property upon his death. He committed to provide a generous endowment to help the Trust manage the farm over time. After careful deliberation, MCHT indicated its willingness to accept this generous gift and great responsibility.
On June 14, 1999, at the age of 99, Mr. Chatfield passed away at his Rockport home. In his will he devised Aldermere Farm to MCHT with the existing conservation easements and additional restrictions for its future use. The Trust now owns and operates Aldermere Farm, maintaining the Chatfields’ legacy of careful stewardship.