Planning a charitable gift that reflects your love of Minnesota’s natural and scenic heritage is an amazing way to let your conservation legacy live on beyond your own lifetime. While there are a number of complex and sophisticated tools available, we’ve put together this simple fact sheet to introduce you to many ways you can leave a legacy through your will.
A will is the most popular way to leave a legacy; over 90% of planned gifts are made using this simple tool. The term “charitable bequest” is used to describe anything you give or leave to charity from your estate through a will.
An estate is any property, money or personal belongings that you may have at the time of your death. Most people leave an estate when they die, even though they may not have a great deal of wealth. You can arrange to make a gift from your estate in several different ways:
- You can set aside a specific amount, such as a cash gift;
- You can leave a percentage of your estate;
- You can leave assets such as a car, real estate, art, jewelry, paid life insurance policies or other financial investments such as stocks or bonds.
Your attorney and other professional advisors can help you consider the range of options based on your situation.
In addition to leaving a cash gift to the Minnesota Land Trust, there are other estate assets that you might consider when making a legacy gift. Here are a few…
Gift of a qualified retirement plan
Assets in qualified (tax-deferred) retirement plans may represent a large portion of your total assets and therefore may be an important factor in planning testamentary charitable gifts. Retirement assets generally considered suitable for charitable gifts include such plans as IRAs, Keoghs, SEPs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and ESOPs.
Left to family members or friends, these assets are subject to income tax and may also be subject to estate tax and generation-skipping transfer tax. Because of this potential double layer of tax, retirement plan assets may be particularly attractive as an asset to leave to the Minnesota Land Trust. In other words, if you designate MLT as a beneficiary upon your death of all or a specified percentage of a retirement plan, the portion of the plan payable to MLT will generally escape estate taxes, and the Minnesota Land Trust, as a tax-exempt institution, will not be required to pay income tax on the distributions. As a general rule, if you intend to make both non-charitable and charitable gifts at death, it makes sense to consider using your tax-deferred retirement plan assets for charity and other assets for heirs. If you are thinking about donating retirement plan assets to the Land Trust, you should discuss the matter with your advisors beforehand.
Life insurance policies
Naming the Minnesota Land Trust as the beneficiary of an existing life insurance policy that is no longer needed to provide for dependents offers a simple way to support MLT. Since you are the policy owner, the value of the policy will be included in your estate, but an offsetting estate-tax charitable deduction will generally be allowed. You may also be able to assign an existing whole life policy to the Minnesota Land Trust, irrevocably making MLT the owner and beneficiary, and claim an income-tax charitable deduction for the lesser of either your basis in the policy or its fair market value in that year. If the policy is not paid up and additional premium payments are due, you may donate cash or the equivalent to the Minnesota Land Trust to pay the premiums each year and claim a full tax deduction for the gift. Lastly, you may be able to purchase a new policy naming the Minnesota Land Trust as owner and beneficiary, pay the annual premiums (through the Minnesota Land Trust), and claim the premium amount as a charitable contribution.
Donating real estate to the Minnesota Land Trust in your will or trust
The Minnesota Land Trust can often use gifts of real estate to further its mission of permanent land protection. If you would like to donate land to the Minnesota Land Trust through your will, we encourage you to consider giving us the flexibility to accept the property without restrictions. When we receive the property, we will evaluate it and determine if it meets our conservation priorities.
Whether given now, or in your will, we encourage you to contact us to discuss the following types of land gifts:
- Land that is suitable for permanent protection and resale. When you donate land that meets the Land Trust’s criteria for permanent protection, MLT will place appropriate and permanent protection restrictions on the property before selling it. This gives you peace of mind knowing that the land you love will remain protected beyond your lifetime while generating resources for additional conservation work. We can even work with you to create the protective restrictions for future implementation. If you’re considering this, please contact us to discuss.
- Real estate that is not suited for conservation purposes. Real estate that is already developed or for other reasons inappropriate to protect can be sold outright with proceeds supporting the Land Trust’s conservation efforts elsewhere. Examples would be residential homes and building sites, properties located in non-conservation areas.
Sample language for including the Minnesota Land Trust in your will
Please note that our legal name is “Minnesota Land Trust.” The Minnesota Land Trust is a non-profit corporation, organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Its federal identification number is 41-1713652.
The following examples are intended only as suggestions for how you might word your will:
Specific Dollar Amount:
I give to the Minnesota Land Trust, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the sum of $______ to be used wherever the need is greatest.
Specific Real Estate:
I hereby give, devise and bequeath to the Minnesota Land Trust, a nonprofit corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the State of Minnesota, all of that certain piece, parcel or lot of land owned by me and situated and being in the Town of _______ and more particularly described as follows: [insert full legal description of property]
It is my wish that the Minnesota Land Trust preserve and protect this property in its natural state. I understand that at the time of my death, the Minnesota Land Trust shall inspect the property to determine whether it provides sufficient conservation value and/or whether it has any natural features or characteristics that should be protected. I understand that the Minnesota Land Trust will endeavor to provide for appropriate protection for the property or any portions of the property that contain any such natural characteristics and scenic features. I also understand that the Minnesota Land Trust may then sell the property. If at the time of my death, the Minnesota Land Trust determines that it cannot protect the property, then the Land Trust may sell the property unrestricted.
Portion of Estate:
I give to the Minnesota Land Trust, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, ______% of my estate and request that this gift be used wherever the need is greatest.
Residual Estate (after other bequests are named):
I give to the Minnesota Land Trust, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the rest and residue of my estate and request that this gift be used wherever the need is greatest.
Again, these are only examples of how you might word the language in your will; there are numerous other gifts from your estate, such as personal property, which will be worded differently. Please consult an attorney when crafting your will.
Recognizing your legacy
The Land Legacy Society
The Minnesota Land Trust has formed the Land Legacy Society to encourage individuals and families to include the Minnesota Land Trust in their estate plans. By doing so, the protection of Minnesota’s land and water resources will continue beyond our lifetimes.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to be listed among our Land Legacy Society members, we would appreciate your letting us know if you decide to include the Land Trust in your estate plans. In this way, we can keep you current on estate planning trends and changes at the Minnesota Land Trust.
The contents of this document are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional legal or estate-planning advice. The Minnesota Land Trust urges you to consult a professional advisor trained in handling trusts and estates when considering any of these planned giving options.
For more information about your land legacy, please call Barbara LaMotte at 651-917-6289.