7 steps to success

Family reviewing land plan

Step 1—Get Started: Estimate the Value of Your Property
In Step 1, you begin by taking a “snapshot” of your land and your other
assets today. You need to estimate the fair market value of everything you
own, including possessions you own jointly with others. You’ll make a
record of how many acres you own, how you are using them, and what
they are likely to be worth. You will also document and value your other
assets—personal property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and the
like. Filling out the fi rst worksheet in the workbook will help you nail all
this down, and once you have the completed sheet in front of you, you can take the next step.

Step 2—Look to the Future: Establish Your Vision and Goals
You and your current co-owners sit down and discuss
your vision and goals for the property and for your family’s continued
engagement with it. You will also discuss the obstacles standing in the
way of achieving that vision and come up with a list of shared goals with
your co-owners.As you gain clarity about your vision for the future ofyour
property, you can evaluate which of fi ve alternatives can best help you
meet your goals: selling it, donating part or all of it (through conservation
easements, for example), dividing it among your heirs, leaving it
to one heir, or keeping the property intact and leaving it to all your heirs
together. There is no right or wrong choice—any of them could be appropriate
for your situation. If you are like almost 80 percent of family
forest landowners, you will want to pass your property intact to the next
generation, but whichever option you choose, once you have a good idea
of what you would like to see happen with your property, you are ready
to move to Step 3.

Step 3—Expand the Conversation
In Step 3, you bring the rest of the family into the discussion,
beginning with one-on-one conversations about your vision and goals for
the property and the family. Depending on what you hear, you might
want to go back to Step 2 and look at things in a new light. You might
choose a different option then, or after reconsidering, you might reaffirm
your first choice. Whichever the result, next you hold a family meeting.
This gives everyone a chance to hear your thoughts about the future of
the land and lets everyone else in the family share what they
would like to see happen with it. The goal of Step 3 is to determine whether
the family has the capacity and desire to help you accomplish your
vision, and to provide a mechanism for family members to share their
passion and vision for the property with you.

Step 4—Create a Succession Plan
In Step 4, you create a succession plan. This will spell out how you
want your land to be cared for after you’re gone, who will own it, and how
decisions about it will be made, and, if necessary, who will manage the property.

Step 5—Create an Estate Plan
Step 5 is to create an estate plan. This is where you will work with your
advisors to draft a set of legal documents that will support your succession
plan. These documents will establish how the land will be owned
and also cover tax planning. 

Step 6—Build Your Family’s Ties to the Land
If you are planning for one or more children to own the land, you will
want to be sure to spend time on Step 6. It's important to help your family
establish their own connections to theland. Getting the family out onto
the land on a regular basis is one way for them to discover what the
property means to them. Our tip sheet has more ideas.

Step 7—Create a Calendar to Implement Your Plan
(and Keep It Up to Date!)
Step 7, the last one and it keeps you on track. Put a calendar in place to
keep tabs on how things are going with all of the plans you set
in motion in the previous steps.