Donating Undivided Interest
To take full advantage of the charitable deduction from a large gift, you may choose to divide a single donation into several smaller ones—donating a series of fractional portions (called undivided interests) over several years. This method permits landowners to tailor the size and number of charitable deductions to amounts that they can use in succeeding years. Each subsequent donation, though, requires an updated appraisal, and the calculations involved can become complex due to tax code limits (see chapter 6). In addition, fractional interests are often worth less than their proportional share since they are less marketable by themselves.
The donee organization, being a co-owner with others, cannot protect the land until owning it in entirety. Undivided interests can become a liability for the organization if the land transfers unexpectedly and the donee must share title with potentially incompatible owners or face partition. Therefore, the organization may ask for an enforceable pledge agreement that commits you to donate any remaining undivided interest by a specific date or at death. Until the donee receives full ownership, you are expected to pay property taxes and keep the property maintained and insured. An alternative to giving undivided interests is to divide the land itself and make sequential gifts of full ownership in portions of the land. This approach has drawbacks but can be worthwhile with large properties, parts of which could stand alone as a preserve.
Gifts of conservation easements, gifts of lands, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and many other techniques described in this book are irrevocable. Please consult with a financial advisor and an attorney to make sure that you are choosing the right course.
It may be helpful to build consensus among family members early in your conservation planning process (see Appendix B for further guidance). Within Maine, whenever a landowner donates land or sells it to a charity for a bargain price, everyone who owns a deeded interest in the land (including spouses, even if they are not named on the deed) must sign a deed to release their rights.