Planned Giving

Join our Circle of Oaks

Common throughout West Michigan, the oak tree is one of the enduring symbols of strength, stability, and timelessness. As such, it is the perfect symbol of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan’s Legacy Society. By including us in your estate plans, you will join a group of dedicated people–our Circle of Oaks–who are committed to sustaining the work of the Land Conservancy for future generations.

Through planned giving, supporters of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan can leave a legacy that will help ensure that special natural areas are protected forever. Planned gifts can take a number of different forms including bequests, beneficiary designations, trusts and gifts of real property.

Here are the different ways you can join the Circle of Oaks and leave a legacy of conservation:


Bequests are among the simplest and easiest ways of creating a legacy. You can make a bequest gift by naming the Land Conservancy in your will or living trust.

  • A specific bequest names an asset or dollar amount, including the proceeds from the sale of a residence or stock.
  • A percentage bequest names a percentage of your net assets, after debts and expenses of your estate are settled.
  • A residual bequest may include assets remaining after other commitments have been honored.

David and Diana Morgenstern became supporters of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan through The Highlands project, for which David was a campaign co-chair. Inspired by the organization’s dedication to keeping nature nearby for future generations, the Morgensterns decided to include a bequest to the Land Conservancy of West Michigan in their estate plans.

“The people I volunteered with (on The Highlands project) all have the same goal: preserve nature. They all take that to heart,” David said. “That’s what I enjoy, is sharing that same excitement.”

Beneficiary Designations

Another very easy way to make a legacy gift is by using a beneficiary designation. Designations may be made from:

  • A life insurance policy naming the Land Conservancy as beneficiary.
  • IRA or retirement plan assets.

George & Gretchen Zuiderveen developed a love for the great outdoors as children. Both credit their parents, who took them hiking, camping, fishing, and exploring, pointing out the marvels of the natural world. The Zuiderveens have chosen to leave a legacy through a beneficiary designation to the Land Conservancy from their IRA account. “We want to ‘give it forward’ to others who wish to explore the natural areas in West Michigan!”


Donors may choose from a variety of charitable trust options with benefits to the donor, including:

  • A charitable lead trust generates income for the charity for a specified time, with the remainder going to you or your beneficiaries.
  • A charitable remainder trust generates income to you for a specified time with the remainder going to the charity.

Jerry & Linda Bakke have fond memories of growing up in West Michigan, including hiking and skiing in the dunes. Those experiences shaped a lifelong love of the outdoors and a passion for preservation. The Bakkes have named the Land Conservancy as the beneficiary of a living trust in their will. “Natural land is an important asset for our children and grandchildren,” says Jerry. “It’s important to preserve it while we can.”

Gifts of Real Property

Gifts of real property may be made to the Land Conservancy through a bequest or retained life estate for either resale or conservation purposes. Contact the Land Conservancy before including a gift of this nature.

Ruth Skwarek grew up on a wooded family farm in Spring Lake Township. Ruth left the property in a bequest to the Land Conservancy, with proceeds from the sale of the house and barns to be used to preserve the undeveloped portion in perpetuity. The property is now open to the public, named the Minnie Skwarek Nature Preserve in memory of Ruth’s mother.

Please consult your financial advisor about the benefits and methods of making a planned gift to be sure which option is right for you. Before you make an estate gift, or if you have already included us in your estate plans, please let us know so we can help you shape your legacy and recognize you appropriately during your lifetime.

Email Kim Karn, Executive Director, to learn more about planned giving.

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