By Harland Goodwin
For many, the focus of estate planning is what or how much to leave the children and/or relatives, health care directives, who will have power of attorney, etc. Few of us truly consider what we want or will leave as a personal legacy. Most believe that sort of legacy planning is only for the wealthy. However, it’s a myth. Each and every one of us has the ability to make the world and our community a better place when we involve giving as an active part of our estate and financial planning.
When making gift planning an active part of your estate and financial planning, you may also be able to realize tax benefits, supplement retirement income, provide financial support for loved ones and even pass along significant assets without worry of estate and transfer taxes. You also create a statement about who you are and what you hold dear within your community and your world when you involve charities in your planning. And you may find you can make a more generous gift then you ever thought possible.
When approaching gift planning, it is important to look first at your goals or the “why.” The “why” of gift planning considers questions such as: What charities do I hold dear?; What charities do I currently support financially and why?; What keeps me awake at night?; If I could solve one problem in my community, my state, the world, what would it be?
Once you have your goal(s) in sight, there are many avenues and vehicles, simple and complex to get there. They are the “how” of gift planning. There are gifts that cost you nothing, such as bequests in a will or trust or naming a charity as beneficiary of a retirement plan or life insurance. There are gift opportunities that pay you and/or another loved one income such as Charitable Gift Annuities or Charitable Remainder Trusts. Gifts can also protect your assets such as Charitable Lead Trusts and Retained Life Estates.
A gift planner can help you focus your thoughts about the “why” and, along with other professional advisors, can help you achieve the “how” to enable you to come up with a plan for your own legacy. Call your favorite charity or trusted advisor to learn more about the opportunities to make a difference through your estate plan. Remember, your legacy plan will be a permanent reflection of your values as well as your love and concern for family, friends and community.
Harland Goodwin, CAP® is the Planned Giving Director for the Northern New England Division of The Salvation Army.