Passing of values is a tenet of Judaism

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

By Elizabeth Klein

The first time most of us create a will is when we have children. As we mature and our family structure changes, so too must the manner in which we view our estate plans. A will is more than a means to transfer property; it can be an expression of one’s personal ideals. The passing of values from one generation to the next is one of the most fundamental tenets of Judaism.

A bequest in a will that passes a portion or all of your estate to another person or charitable organization, or both, is a personal statement of your values - your legacy - to those who mean the most to you and your community.

A charitable bequest may be made in several ways including: gift of a percentage of your estate, gift of a specific dollar amount or asset, gift from the balance of your estate or a retirement plan asset, such as an IRA account. These options should be reviewed with your estate planning attorney.

How do you identify the most appropriate charitable organization(s) to receive your legacy gift? Perhaps you have provided annual support to a particular organization for decades and wished you could have contributed more as you benefited both from the giving and the receiving (of services) along the way.

Consider Betty and Sam, both school teachers earning modest incomes. With a deep commitment to their favorite charity, their annual giving spanned 52 years. A conversation during a recent Passover Seder with their children and grandchildren illuminated for them the importance of ensuring that those who followed would know their values. With the assistance of their attorney, financial advisor, and development professionals they created a meaningful charitable bequest.

One’s legacy gift is as personal and individual as one’s values. No gift is too small. Many may think, “In spite of my commitment to tikkun olam and a life-time of modest tzedakah, I don’t have much to leave behind.” Others with concern over today’s volatile stock market and life’s longevity may view an increased gift in their lifetime an unwise decision.

Because a gift of a lifetime is almost always funded through assets (rather than income), leaving a bequest can allow almost everyone to leave a legacy gift. Such gifts may also benefit your estate by lessening the burden of estate taxes on your family. Creating a legacy allows you to ensure that those who come after you know your ideals.

As our parents and grandparents have built before us, we must create a legacy for our children. Other than leading by example, how do we show the younger generation what we care about? How do we want to be remembered?

Elizabeth D. Klein is senior development officer of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood.

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