With their children grown, Garland and Suzanne Marshall rarely used their South Carolina vacation home. As they considered their options, they chose to donate their property outright to The Nature Conservancy—a gift that brought them tax and financial benefits and fulfilled their desire to make a difference “in some small way.”
Garland Marshall has a unique “fish’s eye” view on the state of the world’s oceans. As a certified scuba diver for more than 50 years, he—along with his wife Suzanne, who snorkels—have explored coral reefs and oceans from New Guinea to Bermuda to New Zealand. Says Garland, "What we are seeing is sad—dramatic changes in oceans everywhere, both in species diversity and density. Today, you have to go to the Seychelles Islands to see underwater diversity like it was 50 years ago."
Both Suzanne and Garland share a deep love for the natural world, and especially for oceans. Years ago, they spent two different summers together at marine stations in southern California and Bermuda while Garland was a student. "Though I’m now a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University’s School of Medicine, I still consider myself a latent biologist," he says.
The two indulge their passion for nature with trips around the world when their busy professional lives allow it. Last summer they took seven grandchildren on a boat trip to explore the Galapagos Islands! "It seems that nature creeps into much of what we do—my other passion is underwater photography and Suzanne gardens and is renowned around the world for her quilts and fabric art that often incorporate environmental themes, especially insects," says Garland.
Being close to nature was a primary reason for buying a home on Dewees Island in South Carolina years ago. The private island community is dedicated to environmental preservation—there are no cars, each home has a limited footprint and no exotic plants are permitted. For years, it was a perfect vacation getaway for them and their four children. "We were sure we would retire there one day. But it turns out we don’t have any immediate plans for retirement and the house is getting less and less use by our children," Garland explains. So they decided to look for a way to utilize the capital investment in a longer-term commitment.
A Simple Solution: Giving A Home Outright
As Suzanne and Garland considered how to solve their real estate needs, they naturally thought of the Conservancy. They are long-time members and believe the Conservancy is taking the right approach by focusing on critical natural areas and working with local people to make them part of the solution. In the end, they chose a simple solution: they donated the property outright to the Conservancy, which then sold it. "The Conservancy used the proceeds to benefit conservation work in our home state of Missouri as well as in Micronesia and Papua New Guinea—places where we have personally witnessed the rapid degradation of forest and marine habitat," explains Garland.
The Marshalls found that it was much easier to give their property directly to the Conservancy and have the Conservancy deal with realtors and all the hassles of selling. They received an income tax deduction for the full fair market value of the property and owed no capital gains tax on the property’s appreciation. "It just made sense. But our true reward is the knowledge that our real estate donation is helping protect the oceans and other natural places that mean so much to us," says Suzanne.
Garland and Suzanne say they give to the Conservancy because "we all have to do what we can to make a difference. If people don’t collectively try to do something to solve big problems, then nothing happens; it just gets worse." They are happy that the donation of their home could assist the Conservancy’s efforts "in some small way."
Gifts of real estate can frequently save you thousands of dollars in income, estate, and capital gains taxes, while providing a substantial benefit to the Conservancy. We accept many types of real estate from residential and commercial properties to undeveloped land.