In this area I will try and describe the process you will go through deeding a conservation easement to the Callteman's.
1) Contact CCALT: First, you will need to contact the Colorado Cattleman's Agricultural Land Trust. The sponsor of the Land Trust, the Colorado Cattleman's Association, have a directive that forbids the Land Trust from actively soliciting Ranchers and Farmers. Once they are approached by an interested party, they will go-to-town getting that easement processed. At the time of this writing, Chris West is the Executive Director. Chris is a very personable fellow who has gathered together a friendly and knowledgeable crew. Both organizations are located at the following address in Arvada Colorado:
Colorado Cattleman's Agricultural Land Trust
8833 Ralston Road
Arvada CO 80002
2) Information Packet: After you contact CCATL, you will be sent an information packet telling you about the process and the things you will be required to do.
3) Application: You will fill out an application to see if your land qualifies for a CCATL easement.
4) Visit: After you get together and there is agreement as to the qualifications of your property, a CCALT employee will come to your ranch for a visit.
5) Approval by the CCALT Board of Directors: The board will look at your application and determine whether your land qualifies for an easement.
6) Baseline Inventory: Here again, a staff member/s will come to your ranch and take an inventory of the land and its conservation assets. This is a comprehensive description of your property along with pictures, all compiled into a bound book. This is then kept by CCALT for comparison purposes down the line. By the way, this is required by the IRS.
7) Appraisal: You will be required to purchase an appraisal by an approved State licensed appraiser. It is important that you do not skimp on this one. A good appraiser with experience appraising conservation easements will help you avoid possible problems with the tax-man.
8) Title Work: CCALT will order Title Work on your property to determine ownership of the land and its appurtenances.
9) Mineral Rights: If you do not own all the mineral rights on your land, you will have to pay a geologist to study your land and give a report the state of the minerals.
10) Closing: Once all the above is accomplished, you will have a closing where you will sign a deed (among other closing documents) deeding an easement on your land to CCALT.
11) Sell Tax Credits: CCALT has a list of brokers who specialize in selling the tax credits you will receive from your donation. A conservation easement is considered a donation by the IRS. The amount is determined by a formula I will describe later. It is placed on your Schedule A under donations.
In addition, the state of Colorado offers a state tax credit for these donations. This amount, again determined by formula, is a direct deduction from your state taxes. This is a dollar for dollar deduction. Say, for example, you have a Colorado tax liability of $25,000 and your easement is worth $10,000. Your taxes for the year would be $15,000.
To lawyer or not to lawyer: All of this seems complicated, but it really is not. CCALT will walk you through the process. In fact, I felt confident enough with the process that I decided not to hire an attorney to do this for me. Of course, I do have to admit that if you choose to take this route, you will spend many hours doing the work that you could have hired a lawyer to do. CCATL will strongly advise you hire a lawyer and I do to, if you do not want to take this task on. In the end I felt that the most important thing is to hire the best appraiser you can. You know your land and what you will accept or not accept in the deed (yes, the contents of the deed are negotiable).
In the next page I will go over an estimate of the costs.
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