Legacy and Estate Planning

Managing a healthy, productive forest is inherently a long-term commitment, and most forests will long outlive their current owners. Landowners must consider what will happen to the property that will outlast them. Typically, this involves transferring the land to the next generation, but this requires planning and dedication.

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) encourages landowners to engage with the ongoing process of legacy planning for their forest properties. Legacy planning involves educating and connecting with the next generation of land stewards for the family property.

As a landowner, you’re responsible for passing on the stewardship values associated with your land. These values can inform the decisions made about the property long into the future. Engaging the next generation in your property management builds a strong foundation for the eventual change in ownership.

Legacy planning is not a one-time action. These efforts can – and should – be ongoing and may evolve with the family over time. Legacy planning includes both the practical plans for the land transfer as well as what you hope future generations will prioritize for the property.

Estate planning is a more specific tool within the broader category of “legacy planning”. Estate planning typically involves coordinating legal and financial expertise to identify how the property will be transferred and managed in the future. Through estate planning, landowners may engage with attorneys and/or financial advisors to prepare legal documents and accounts for your estate (including all personal assets such as your land). These consultants can best help you apply appropriate legal and financial structures when they understand your goals.

Planning for the long-term future of your forested property goes beyond drafting legal and financial documents – although these are important planning tools, too. Communication and engagement build the values and knowledge necessary to properly manage a forest legacy.

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Get started, contact your local VDOF forester for guidance.

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Additional Resources

Learn more about legacy planning for forest landowners.

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Forest Legacy Program
Forest Legacy ProgramP00200

Brochure provides information regarding the Forest Legacy Program available to landowners for conserving their forestland, including program overview, public purposes, methods of acquisition, application process, and program requirements. Printed copies available.

Viewforestland-conservationpublication
Forest Legacy Program Application - Conservation Easement
Forest Legacy Program Application – Conservation Easement10.04Viewforestland-conservationform
Forest Legacy Program Application - Fee Simple Purchase
Forest Legacy Program Application – Fee Simple Purchase10.05Viewforestland-conservationform
Forest Legacy Program Application - Property Data Sheet
Forest Legacy Program Application – Property Data Sheet10.06Viewforestland-conservationform
Landowner Options for Forestland Conservation
Landowner Options for Forestland ConservationP00146

Brochure provides information regarding options available to landowners for conserving their forestland, including use-value taxation, ag and forestal districts, riparian Buffer tax credit, cost-share assistance, conservation easements, purchase of development rights, grants for fee-simple acquisition and easements, and donations of property. Printed copies available.

Viewforestland-conservationpublication
Legacy Planning Stories
Legacy Planning Stories

Stories about how landowners “like me” are ensuring the future of their land.

Viewforestland-conservationpublication
Legacy Planning… A Guide for Virginia Landowners
Legacy Planning… A Guide for Virginia LandownersCNRE-121

A comprehensive guide to successful legacy planning for your forestland.

Viewforestland-conservationpublication
Plan Your Forest's Future
Plan Your Forest’s FutureP00205

Brochure provides information regarding the responsibility of owning forestland and the importance of planning your forest’s future, conserving your forestland, forest planning options, types of plans, elements of a plan, and benefits of a plan. Printed copies available.

Viewforest-managementpublication
Woodland Owner Legacy Planning Benefits and Barriers
Woodland Owner Legacy Planning Benefits and Barriers

Summary report of research about the benefits and barriers for landowners in keeping their forestland in tact.

Viewforestland-conservationpublication

Contact Us

If you’re unsure where to start, contact your local VDOF forester for guidance.

For more information or questions, e-mail us or use our contact form.