Protect Your Land

Grandma and Grandpa Purdy own a home and 25 acres of forest in Saugatuck Township. Everyone loves to walk through their woods, where dozens of species of birds sing from the trees and wildflowers line the trail. What will happen to this property in the future?

Scenario 1: After the Purdys pass on, their children can’t agree on what to do with the property so they sell it to a developer. Within a few years, the land has been cleared, several new homes have been built, and most of the trees are gone.

This story is not true but it is plausible. So how do we keep it from happening? If you own a tract of woodland, farmland, or meadowland, there are measures you can take to keep it natural and protect it from being divided or developed. Some strategies allow you to keep the space private and continue farming or harvesting trees. You may even get a break on estate tax, property tax, or federal income tax.

Two Options

  1. Conservation easement – you still own the property, but a land conservancy* oversees it (an easement is a way to let someone do something on your property without giving them ownership).
  2. Nature preserve – the property ends up belonging to a land conservancy.*
    1. Donation – give them the property now.
    2. Bequest – donate it in your will.
    3. Bargain sale – sell it to them for less than market value.

* OR your municipality or the State of Michigan

These are a few of the possible solutions. There are many variations and each location has unique laws. Before you make a decision, engage a reputable, experienced lawyer.

How might one of these strategies affect the fictitious Purdys?

Scenario 2: The Purdys split their property. Their home sits on a 5-acre parcel and they work with a land conservancy to establish a private conservation easement on the remaining 20-acre wooded parcel. The Purdys bequeath the home to their oldest child but the easement will remain accessible to the whole family.

Selected Resources

Video Inspiration

Below are short videos from other regions. Each provides a helpful insight into land protection.