Martha sat in her attorney’s office describing her plans for the distribution of her estate.
“Well, let’s see now. I want to leave the crystal to my sister Harriet. I should do something for my brother Charles, although he’s so successful he really doesn’t need an inheritance from me. I’ll just leave him a token of my affection - perhaps the grandfather clock from my husband’s estate. I want to provide generously for my son, Tim, and my daughter, Julie,” Martha continued, “but I’m not sure it’s necessary, or even a good idea, to leave them all of my estate. We taught them to work hard and be self-reliant and nothing should change that.”
“Now there are three others I need to tell you about . . . and they are very unusual,” she added slyly. On hearing those words her attorney leaned closer and Martha went on: “Oh, yes. These people tell me they never have to pay income taxes. Not only that, I never have to pay gift taxes or estate taxes on anything I give to them. But here’s what is even more interesting: Whenever I make gifts to them, I get to write it off on my income taxes!”
Martha smiled at her attorney’s puzzled expression and finally confided that these “people” actually were several worthwhile not-for-profit organizations (including us). Increasingly, people like Martha are telling their advisers: “My children are grown, educated and on their own. I have given them a good start in life. I want to provide for them after my death but I don’t feel I need to leave my children everything. I would do them no favors by giving them an instant fortune. I’ve worked hard; I’ve been successful; life’s been good to me. Now I want to give something back. I want to do something for humanity. It’s a matter of my personal philosophy.”
For these individuals, their charitable beneficiaries - school, house of worship, health institution, social service organization, cultural foundation or others - may be every bit as important as the “natural” objects of their bounty. And if that’s the case, then some remarkable estate planning ideas are possible. Our staff would be pleased to help explore ways by which you can add immense personal satisfaction to your plans - plans that make the statement:
“I was here; my life was important . . . I made a difference.”