A retained life estate allows you to donate your personal residence (such as a home, cabin, or farm) while retaining the right to live on and use the property. Plus, your gift will provide support in the future for the natural places you treasure. This creative gift plan transfers your house to The Nature Conservancy but reserves a free lifetime tenancy to you. You can make a significant gift to The Nature Conservancy with the most valuable asset you hold, yet not disturb your living arrangements or your cash flow.
Legacy Club member Adele Erisman was a Conservancy supporter for decades, and in 2011 gave her most personal gift, her home, as a retained life estate.
When Connecticut conservationists founded The Nature Conservancy, Adele Erisman was a frequent attendee at those meetings. As the Conservancy grew over the decades, she provided her support.
More than 60 years after those early days, she increased her commitment with an extraordinary gift. In 2011, at the age of 102, Adele gave the home she and her late husband built in the 1950s to the Conservancy as a Retained Life Estate.
Adele lived in her cozy redwood-sided house enjoying the view over her 65 wooded acres until her passing in 2014. She loved the security of knowing her oaks and cedars will continue to shelter songbirds, squirrels and other wildlife in the years to come. She gave the two acres surrounding her home to the Conservancy and deeded the adjoining 63 wooded acres to a local land trust.
Although she loved watching birds on her land, she wass saddened by the changes she has seen and wanted to help. “I used to have tree swallows and grosbeaks by the hundreds at my feeder,” she told The Day, a Connecticut newspaper. “I have the variety but not the quantity.”
It was her love of birds, she explained, which ignited her passion for conservation. When she and her husband, Robert, lived in New York City, he focused on magazine publishing while Adele worked as a secretary to ecologist, Frank Egler. Adele helped the noted scientist write statements advocating improved protection of utility owned successional habitats, a viewpoint considered controversial at the time.
In 1940, Adele and Robert moved to southeastern Connecticut. There she befriended local conservationists, including some Conservancy founders. Hoping to inspire others, Adele wrote many nature articles. She also volunteered and helped found a local nature center which teaches educational programs and creates nature trails and habitats for all to enjoy. All the while she remained informed about conservation issues; reading from many sources including the New York Times and travel writer Paul Theroux.
Although the quiet activist has donated to dozens of groups, she chose The Nature Conservancy for her most personal gift, her home. She told The Day that she expects the Conservancy will sell the property, which is protected from development, to help fund its work of protecting critical habitats. She advised conservation-minded people to make their own estate choices rather than leave the decisions to their heirs.
After more than a century of living, her enthusiasm for making a difference remains strong. She told The Day, “When you are about to die, like I am, you love the idea you’ve left something worth leaving.”
Source: The Day newspaper, Articles: “A century of loving and protecting nature,” Judy Benson, 11/15/09; “Devising a generous bequest, at 102,” David Collins, 2/22/12.
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