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Estate planning as a forest stewardship tool: A study of family land ownerships in the northeastern U.S

Markowski-Lindsay, Marla, Paul Catanzaro, Kathleen Bell, David Kittredge, Jessica Leahy, Brett Butler, Ezra Markowitz, Anita Milman, Rebekah Zimmerer, Shorna Allred and Mary Sisock

Forest Policy and Economics, 2017, vol. 83, issue C, 36-44

Abstract: Forested lands produce a multitude of societal benefits, and landowner decisions influence the provision of these benefits over space and time. The fate of over half of the 330millionhectares of forestland in the United States (U.S.) rests in the hands of private ownerships, and over 35% of U.S. forestland is owned by families. Landowner estate planning offers a means for families to make critical decisions about the future stewardship of their land, including whether and how to split up lands or to take steps to ensure lands remain forested. Yet, decision-making regarding ownership transition and formal estate planning remains poorly understood. Our research provides foundational knowledge of the current status of family landowners' formal estate planning in four northeastern U.S. states. Using a mail survey in Massachusetts, Maine, New York and Vermont, we compiled information on owners' current management, future intentions, estate planning, and demographics. Approximately 66% of respondents have made use of a will for estate planning; 25% have combined the use of a will with a tool that may control use; and 34% have not employed any formal planning tools. Findings from a multinomial logit model of estate planning actions suggest that landowner and land characteristics, barriers to the planning process, and intentions to pass to heirs, recreational and financial investment objectives, and landscape area differences explain variation in the extent and type of planning by owners. Our results underscore the importance of additional research on estate planning, including the conservation intent of these plans, and offer guidance to practitioners interested in bolstering engagement with these planning tools.

Keywords: Estate planning; Family forest owner; Land conservation; Land transfer; Forest management; Parcelization (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:eee:forpol:v:83:y:2017:i:c:p:36-44