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What Will Become of Your Forest Land When You are Gone?

Family forest owners may use consulting foresters or state extension foresters for advice on the technical details of land management, but many owners shy away from thinking about how best to pass their forest on to the next generation.

Poor estate planning – or no planning at all – can result in a tax bill that requires selling timber or forest land, which in turn can lead to subdivision and development.

Estate Planning for Forest Landowners is a free publication developed by the U.S. Forest Service that provides a comprehensive guide to estate planning specifically designed for forest landowners.

“Over the past decade, demographic, social, and market trends have converged to increase the effects of the Federal estate tax on rural landowners.” says John Greene, emeritus scientist with the agency’s Southern Research Station Forest Economics and Policy unit based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. “Although the minimum estate value for paying tax may seem high, family forest owners, farmers, and ranchers remain many times more likely than the U.S. population in general to incur the estate tax.”

Greene add that the guide is about estate planning, not just the estate tax.

“As well as describing how to use the available tax provisions to minimize or avoid the Federal estate tax, it discusses strategies and tools to interest younger family members in keeping the forest intact and train them in how to manage it for the values the family holds for it,” he said.

Greene and coauthors William Siegel and Harry Haney designed Estate Planning for Forest Landowners to provide specific guidelines and assistance on applying estate planning to forest properties. The guide is designed for use by both private landowners and advisers — legal, financial, insurance, and forestry professionals — who help them with estate planning. The guide presents a working knowledge of the Federal estate and gift tax law as it relates to forest properties.

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