Growing up in the 1930’s, Joanne Greenspun remembers leaving her hometown of Washington, D.C. to spend summers with her parents and extended family in one of the cottages dotting the shoreline near Lewes, where she was born and her mother was raised. When her parents purchased one of those cottages in retirement, Joanne visited from the other side of the Delaware Bay in New Jersey, where she lived and worked as a librarian.
Later she inherited the Lewes home, using it for vacations and as a home base for visiting with friends and family living nearby. When the time came to determine what to do with the property in the absence of a direct heir, Joanne contacted the Conservancy, an organization she supported as a member for many years, to craft an agreement that enabled her to make a gift of the beach cottage in a way that would allow her to use and enjoy it for as long as she lived. Then the property will be sold, with proceeds benefiting the Delaware Bayshores project.
Greenspun adds, “I hadn’t realized that the Conservancy accepts donations of real estate with no significant natural values.”
The Conservancy calls them “trade lands,” and has been working with donors interested in giving these gifts of appreciated real estate — homes, apartment buildings, vacant land, retail centers and office buildings — since 1981. Donated outright, through a reserved life estate or included in a will, a trade land gift is not accepted by the Conservancy to be protected as a nature preserve. Instead, it is sold with proceeds used to acquire and protect natural areas.
Trade land gifts allow donors to take advantage of the value of their real estate as an alternative to making cash contributions. An agreement can simplify estate planning and provide certain tax benefit, or even be structured to provide monthly income to the donor.
According to Joanne Greenspun, “I enjoy the property when I can, while knowing that its proceeds will eventually benefit the migrating shorebirds I watch along the Delaware Bayshores each Spring.”