Reflections on 2008 Intergenerational Land Transfer workshops
With his wife, two adult children, and a nephew next to him, David Adams described his favorite spot on the family woodland: Sitting under a 45-inch diameter white pine as it sways in the breeze. David has sat under that tree for decades and dreams of the tree, and the land, sheltering his family long after he’s gone.
David and his family attended an Intergenerational Land Transfer workshop this spring to learn how to keep the land in their family’s ownership. Sound straightforward? Intergenerational land transfer is anything but.
Transferring ownership of assets between generations can be fraught with legal, financial, and personal challenges. As a consequence, many families are forced to subdivide and sell land that they’d prefer to keep intact and in the family’s hands. This is one factor leading to a reduction in Minnesota’s average woodland ownership size. This trend, in turn, impacts recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and land productivity.
In order to help families navigate the land transfer process, the Woodland Advisor program offered four two-part Intergenerational Land Transfer classes in 2008. This post reports on our experience with the first round of classes, lessons learned, and next steps.
The Woodland Advisor curriculum is designed to help woodland owners think about how both they and their heirs feel about the future of their land and to become familiar with some basic tools to achieve their vision. Based heavily on Oregon State University’s Ties to the Land and the University of Minnesota’s Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pieplate curricula, we emphasize the human side of land transfer: Personal values, family dynamics, and the importance of communication.
Content is presented during two three-hour evening workshops. Part 1 included a presentation and discussion led by two Extension Family Resource Management educators. Participants go home with a number of handouts including the Ties to the Land workbook and DVD, a workbook about transferring nontitled property, and a number of handouts (reproduced with permission) from the USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area’s Estate Planning Options for Family Forests site. Their assignment is to review the numerous handouts, clarify their personal vision, and begin (or continue) conversations with their heirs about their visions and values relative to the land.
In part 2, presenters were Clint Bentz and Allison Eklund, both of whose participation was supported by the Blandin Foundation. Clint is a nationally known Certified Public Accountant in Oregon specializing in land transfer and principal author of the Ties to the Land curriculum. Allison is a Minnesota attorney and woodland owner. Clint’s presentation addressed the basic forms of land ownership and principles of estate planning. Allison focused on specifics of Minnesota’s Limited Liability Statute. We closed with a 45-minute open discussion and Q&A.
We charged $100 per family to attend both workshops. We encouraged registrants to bring as many family members as possible for no additional cost.
The workshop focused participants’ thinking and encouraged action. Wrote one participant “[t]hanks for a great class last spring, we have had a number of conversations and are getting a clearer idea of each person’s wishes for the future.” This discussion thread was initiated by another attendee. Onsite written and verbal evaluations were very strong. Both parts of the workshop were well received, and participants particularly appreciated the focus on family dynamics and communication.
Woodland Advisor program organizers are reviewing evaluations and making improvements to the curriculum based on their experience with these four workshps. They plan to offer additional Intergenerational Land Transfer workshops in 2009. Click to view a calendar of upcoming workshops.
Woodland Advisor is a program of the Minnesota Forestry Association, University of Minnesota Extension, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry. The Blandin Foundation also provided important financial support for the delivery of the 2008 Intergenerational Land Transfer workshops.