By Christa Kemp, Director of Donor Relations at the Vermont Land Trust

Every year we help families transfer land from one generation to the next. We also work with families who want to make conservation a part of their estate planning. Over the years I have noticed common themes within families whose legacies are successfully carried forward. I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned from them.

Legacy planning works best when heirs and their families have shared values and the ability to carry on long-standing traditions, such as stewarding a forest or operating a farm. It is also helpful when heirs are able to bring in their own ideas about how to achieve common goals for philanthropy and/or land management.

Here are the best practices I’ve seen used to ensure not just efficient estate planning, but values-based legacy planning.


The foundation begins with communication: talk with your heirs. Share your vision for the future and what you hope to accomplish. Be sure to ask questions and thoughtfully listen to the answers. You will learn from each other and potentially build a stronger plan.


Set your heirs up for success to carry out the plan. Whether that means learning forest management skills, animal husbandry, or personal finance, linking necessary skills to a desired outcome makes the effort all the more purposeful and fulfilling.


Share in preparatory efforts to solidify the plan. Introduce heirs to legal and financial advisors. Walk on the land, work with the livestock, paddle on the pond, or watch the wildlife—together. Shared experiences will deepen the value commitment and understanding of the practical application of the goals.

Repeatedly, I have watched these practices result in a deeply ingrained sense of commitment to shared values, practices, and planning.

One inspiring family, the Bairds, have built a successful farming enterprise in North Chittenden. Bob and Bonnie Baird spoke openly to their daughters, Jenna and Averie, about their family history, their hope for the future, their commitments to community and the agrarian lifestyle, and the organizations they chose to support.

The girls felt empowered being included in the important conversations, were prompted to begin formulating their own values, and took ownership in the shared responsibility of the success of the farm.

“If their parents are donating money or land… to different organizations, I think it’s important for the kids to understand those organizations and also know what’s going to those organizations and why,” said Jenna Baird. “My parents do a good job of explaining that.”

We were so grateful when the Bairds agreed to share more of their story with us in a new video you can see at

This story appeared in our Spring 2017 Newsletter. For more information about gift planning contact, contact Christa Kemp at (802) 262-1229,

Topic: givingmembers