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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

5 Estate Planning Ideas for Nature Lovers

Many of us have migrated to the Yampa Valley precisely because we want to be close to nature and because we love and admire the natural world. If you are one of these people, you might be wondering how your love for nature can continue as a part of your estate plan.

Estate plans are the place to express your values, to name the people most important to you and to describe the way you want to handle your most important assets. In that way, if the environment is important to you as both a cause and a concept, you can find creative ways to include it in your documents along with everything else that's most important to you.

Include environmental values as part of your Kid Safety System.

When a parent dies--even with an estate plan--the children's guardians are left to guess at how the parent would raise the child. That's why it's so important to express your values to the person you choose as your child's guardian, so they know how to help your child stay connected to what's most important to you.

These values include everything from how you want your children raised in a certain faith, to how you would handle money. They can also include recreational values and environmental values. If nature and the environment are important to you, we can help you to create funds that would encourage your child to get out in nature, such as a special fund for taking a NOLS or Outward Bound course.

I can also imagine a scenario where the child has grown up living in Steamboat Springs, but after losing his parents, moves to Chicago to be with family. You can make sure that your estate plan accommodates funding to help your child stay connected to the land and environment of the Yampa Valley.

Plan for the development of your land and its use.

Here in the Yampa Valley, we love being able to look out across the landscape and see a herd of elk passing through, to see moose ambling down to a creek. Keeping the land open and undeveloped has an important environmental purpose in addition to its beauty.

If you own undeveloped land, you have probably thought about its value and how you want to manage it. Through your estate plan, you have many options for preserving the land, and either making it available to the public or keeping it pristine. Our office helps families navigate dividing land among family members and expressing our clients' wishes for the land they love.

Donate to an environmental charity in your memorial instructions.

There are plenty of great ways to donate to a charity with your estate plan, and as we explored in the Charitable Giving Toolkit, not all of them are costly to you. One of the easiest ways to express your environmental values even after you pass away is to include your favorite charity in your memorial instructions. You know, that part of the obituary that says, "In lieu of flowers..." you can include something like the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, the Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin, or Yampatika.

There are so many non-profits doing amazing work for the environment in the Yampa Valley! Our office can help guide you to the charities doing work that's most connected to your heart, but if you need more guidance, we can also connect you with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation for more information.

Include an environmentally-friendly burial option.

A typical casket and headstone doesn't appeal to everyone, and there are many ways to have a burial that expresses your love of nature or connects you even closer to it. One of them is Capsula Mundi, a biodegradable burial pod that turns your body into a tree. It reduces your carbon footprint, even after your death.

Discuss these wishes with your family members and other key people.

One of the things we've learned in estate planning is that you can plan for almost everything, but there will still be something unexpected that you could never had foreseen. That's why one of the most important ways you can ensure that your wishes will be carried out is by having those (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations with your family members and other people who are involved in your plan.

The people who really know you will then be able to guide your estate plan through any of these unexpected issues, and help your money and energy stay with the causes you love, whether that's preserving the Yampa River or Protect Our Winters.

If you have concerns about whether your estate plan accurately reflects your values, contact our office today: 970-879-1572 or email

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