Donating Land

Donating your land to John Muir Land Trust is among the most generous legacies you can leave to future generations. JMLT gratefully receives donations of land and property every year. Many of these become conserved properties that are protected forever. Other times, generous donors make gifts of homes and parcels of land that are not suitable for conservation, but that we can sell for funds we then use to acquire other lands.

Donating your property to John Muir Land Trust can provide you with many benefits as well. Donating land gives you an income tax deduction for the land’s fair-market value; avoids capital gains taxes; removes the property from your taxable estate; and supports our conservation mission.

Types of Land Donations

Below is a brief overview of the many different forms that conservation land donations can take:

  • Land Donation: This is a charitable donation of land which is given over immediately to JMLT. The land trust takes title to the property, assuming full ownership and future care of the property.
  • Easement: A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency. In the agreement, the landowner permanently restricts certain uses of the land in order to protect important conservation values (scenic, wildlife, agricultural). The property owner donates the easement to the land trust, which then has the responsibility of enforcing the terms of the easement. The landowner can continue to use the property, and may sell it, or leave it to heirs, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever.
  • Gift of Future Ownership: Another method of donation is to make a gift of future ownership – the donor retains use of all or part of the donated land during his or her lifetime or the lifetime of designated immediate family members. John Muir Land Trust would become the owner upon the donor’s death or other named event.
  • Donation by Devise: A gift of land through your will is a donation by devise. You retain full use and control over your land while you are alive and ensure its protection after you are gone. In this case you do not receive an income tax deduction, but your estate taxes are reduced and your heirs may benefit from reduced inheritance taxes.

Questions to consider when donating land

Answers to questions like these can help in determining the conservation options that will work best for you.

  • What is it about the land that’s important to you?
  • What are its special natural, agricultural, scenic or historic features?
  • Is it important to you to protect the whole parcel or a specific part of it?
  • How do you plan to use the land in the future?
  • Do you plan to continue owning the land?
  • Do you plan to continue living on the land?
  • Do you plan to pass the land on to someone in your family?
  • Do you need to sell all or part of the land?
  • Is it important to you to reduce your income taxes?
  • Are you interested in reducing potential estate taxes?
  • Are you interested in reducing your property taxes?
  • Will you owe substantial capital gains taxes if you sell the land?
  • Do you want to be able to construct any additional buildings on the property?
  • Do you want to be able to sell any building lots in the future? 

* source: lta.org


Please email JMLT or call (925) 228-1130 if you are interested in receiving more information or would like to set up a meeting to discuss how best to protect your land.