Even with current and future exemptions, estate tax rates remain the highest rates faced by the American taxpayer. Placing a conservation easement on a piece of land can significantly reduce the value of that property for estate tax purposes and may qualify the encumbered land for an additional partial exclusion from estate taxes.
Depending on the value of the property and the estate, this could mean the difference between the heirs having to sell the property to pay the estate taxes or keeping the property in the family. Heirs may even grant a conservation easement after the death of the landowner and still take advantage of the estate tax benefits.
In addition, if the easement qualifies under certain provisions of the IRS Code, then an additional 40% of the residual value of the property after the granting of an easement can be excluded from the value of the estate, up to a maximum exclusion of $500,000.