I have been doing estate planning for nearly 20 years, and I am surprised at the relatively small number of my clients who have incorporated charitable giving into their estate planning. Many of those same people have been charitable during their lives, giving to various organizations and their places of worship, but people do not seem to think about charitable giving as part of their legacy when they are gone.
When you think about it, your generosity says more about you than all the money you spent during your life. Your generosity reflects your values, your commitment and your involvement in the community in which you live. Our families are certainly a legacy that lives on after we have lived out our years on this Earth, but our charitable giving is also a part of that legacy. It is how people remember us.
I am not completely sure why it is that people do not typically consider charitable giving when doing their estate planning, though most people are charitable during their lives. Many people likely do not see themselves as wealthy and feel that whatever assets have been accumulated during life should be passed on to next generation they will leave behind. Providing for family is as fundamental and basic as priorities get.
That is no less true during life. We support our families, raise our children, and help them into young adulthood and beyond. Even during our lives, however, we often find some ability to make charitable donations to our places of worship and causes that we find worthy. Why not also upon our death?
The charitable legacy we leave is not just a legacy for ourselves, but a legacy for our children and their descendants. The example we set is the example that others will follow. The adage, “You can’t take it with you when you die,” is certainly true; but how we direct the assets we leave behind and who we leave them to is a reflection of our lives, our values, and becomes part of our legacy.
For the average person who is not “wealthy”, we may feel that charitable giving is something that only the wealthy do, but that is not entirely true during life. Most people give something to places of worship and charitable organizations during life. Charitable organizations will tell you that all of the small gifts they receive are significant. They add up. The large gifts are rare; the small gifts are what sustain charitable organizations. If everyone gave a little bit, the charitable organizations around us would have ample funds to promote and achieve their charitable purposes.
If you have not incorporated charitable giving into your estate planning, but you have practiced some degree of charitable giving during your life, perhaps you should consider adding some charitable giving component to your estate planning when you next review and revise it. If you have not done any estate planning yet, keep charitable giving in mind as part of the legacy that you leave behind.
There are many avenues for charitable giving, both nationally and locally. If you would like your legacy to be local, but are not certain about the sustainability and future of local charitable organizations, consider giving to an established community foundation like the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley. These foundations have endowment funds that are designed for sustainability and will continue indefinitely.
Regardless of the amount of wealth you have accumulated during your life, most people have some ability to be charitable. Consider charitable giving as part of your estate planning and the legacy you will leave behind. Through gifting your legacy will be a bright one.Kevin G. Drendel Drendel & Jansons Law Group 111 Flinn Street Batavia, IL 60510 (630) 406-5440 (630) 406-6179 fax [email protected] foxvalleyestateplanning.com