Connections

Demystifying Succession Planning

By Emma Sass, UVM Forest Research Technician

The future of the forested landscapes across the Cold Hollow to Canada area—and across Vermont—will be strongly shaped by the legacy planning occurring over the next several decades.

Planning for your legacy can be a long process. It’s important to start planning early to give yourself the full range of options and resources available.

A good place to start is by assembling information about your land and other assets, including a copy of your management plan and deed.

Think about what you want most⎯for the future of your land, your family, and your finances⎯and rank your goals in order of importance. Communicate your goals with your heirs and any stakeholders in the land as you lay the groundwork for your plan.

What do you want your forestland to look like in 10 years? What about 20 years? 50 years?

Your goals will inform the rest of your plan. There are many different tools that can be thought of as an à la carte menu, which can combine to meet each individual landowner’s needs. Some tools, like wills, determine who will own the land next. Other tools, like enrolling in Current Use, provide temporary control over how your land is used. Finally, other tools, like a conservation easement, protect land permanently. The type of ownership you have, as listed on your deed, will also impact how your land can be transferred, so it’s important to make sure your ownership aligns with your goals and other tools.

A team of professionals, including an estate planning attorney and tax specialist, is critical to ensure that the tools you have are correctly in place and will achieve your goals. Ask other landowners for referrals to find someone with the right experience to help you.

Finally, once you have a plan in place, it’s a good idea to revisit every year or two to make sure it still meets your needs and those of your heirs.

We are in the midst of the largest intergenerational shift in land ownership. This is a vulnerable time for our forest’s future, but there is also great potential to use tools to make sure our forestland is treated the way we want.

For resources on legacy planning and more information, please visit ourvermontwoods.org/legacy or contact me, Emma Sass, at emma.sass@uvm.edu