When There's a Will, There's a Way

Tags: Federation, Blog, Philanthropy

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Carol Wolf


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News


As a philanthropic planning professional, I see how wonderful people feel when they create personal legacy plans. It is so satisfying to help people discover how they can make a lasting impact and continue supporting their community into the future.

Why would someone who has been charitable their whole life not want to leave something behind? Sometimes people don’t include charities in their wills and often, they don’t even create a will at all.

Currently, only 42% of American adults have wills. For those with children under age 18, the figure is 36%. Younger people don’t see the necessity for a will. For those individuals, a legacy bequest is secondary to designating guardians for their children.

Creating a will can seem morose, depressing or even dreary. But the alternative – leaving your children’s future and your assets in someone else’s hands – is even scarier. Instead of dwelling on dying, you can consider creating a will an act of love for your family and community.

The number one reason for not having a will is “I haven’t gotten around to it.” It would be nice to know that we have lots of time to worry about this, but as time goes on, it becomes easier to procrastinate even longer.

Another reason is, “I don’t have much to give anyway.” But the size of your estate is not material. Do you have a retirement account? This is an important asset that goes directly to a designated beneficiary. People often forget who they named. Have you checked lately? You probably want to make sure the person designated is still appropriate.

Regardless of the amount of your estate, make sure it is handed down based on your wishes not your state’s laws. Why let the state make such important decisions for you?

Often, those with modest assets are hesitant to include charities in their estate plans due to the fear of running out of money. Even people who do not have disposable income can make charitable gifts. You may have assets such as the retirement account mentioned previously, an insurance policy, or a house that becomes part of your estate. Of course, providing for family comes first, so you can state that a charity should receive what’s left or residual.

If you would like to leave a legacy to your community, start a conversation with your financial advisor, attorney or a development professional. They will help you find a way to make it happen.

Most importantly, if you do not have a will, do your family a big favor and start the process today.

Carol Wolf is assistant vice president, planned giving and endowments, at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood.

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