When You Know The Why, The How Will Follow

Tags: Federation, legacy

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Article reprinted with permission from the Cleveland Jewish News


Carol Wolf

Carol Wolf

Charitable gift planners engage donors in discussions about their family history, community involvement and most significantly, values. We want to know where you have been giving every year and why you care about those organizations. These initial discussions are the most enjoyable and important part of the gift planning process. We talk about what you care about most – what you want to ensure for our Jewish community’s future. How to make the gift a reality can be decided later.

“It depends” is the most common answer you hear from a development officer when you ask how to make your legacy gift. That is why you consult your financial adviser and estate planning attorney before making a commitment. There are countless ways to achieve your philanthropic goals, and your advisors can help you find the best option. It is most rewarding to involve your family, giving you a chance to share your values and participate in philanthropy together during your lifetime. Informing your charitable beneficiaries ensures that your legacy commitment’s purpose is documented and allows the charity to express its gratitude.

In the past, the will provided direction for most assets. This has changed drastically for most people, with each IRA or a stock market account requiring a beneficiary designation. The assets are easily transferred to beneficiaries upon the account holder’s death. Gift planning expert and researcher, Russell James, did a study that looked at 12,000 decedents who had a signed and witnessed will. Two-thirds of those documents controlled no assets at all.

You may wonder if you still need a will. A will is necessary to provide guidance for assets not directed with beneficiary designations. It is important to review everything with an attorney to determine the best option for you. Another reason for a will is more personal. A beneficiary designation form includes only your signature without indication of why you named specific charities, family members or friends. A will can include personal and values-based messages about your choices.

Bequests are the most common planned gifts with 85 percent of the testamentary gifts to charities coming from bequests in a will or trust. Although it is not legally necessary, most attorneys include discussions about charitable giving in their estate planning discussions. Development professionals from your most valued organizations are happy to engage with your professional team in this important conversation. However you choose to make your legacy commitment, your values, your good deeds, and your good name will live in on our Jewish community forever.

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

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