Finding Joy In Your Estate Plan
Insights from President/CEO Mike Goorhouse
It’s hard to get enthusiastic in thinking about the end of our lifetimes. It’s challenging to create a sense of urgency around estate planning, when it’s likely you’ll live for many years. It’s easy to put off difficult decisions regarding what will happen to financial resources, property, and possessions once we’re not here.
If you don’t have children, where will you designate your resources? If you do have children, how much of your estate should you give them? Do you leave each child the same amount?
While you might not typically enjoy estate planning, I’ve found that there is one aspect that many of us can find joy in: including charitable gifts in your estate plans.
For many in our community, gifts through an estate will be the largest charitable gifts they’ll ever make. There are numerous ways to steward the financial resources you’ve been blessed with to make a positive difference, and planning how to give back beyond your lifetime can be deeply rewarding.
Statistics show many people are missing out on this rewarding part of estate planning and subsequently missing out on wonderful moments of stewardship.
While more than 70% of Americans make charitable gifts during their lifetimes, currently only 10% will make a charitable gift as part of their estate plan.
I’m a firm believer that “giving while living” is important, especially in experiencing firsthand the joys of giving. But, I’m also a big proponent of estate giving: What easier time is there to give generously, than when you know without a doubt that you will no longer need the resources?
I often hear that people aren’t certain how much to give to charity or don’t want to disinherit their children. There are two simple ways of thinking about estate charitable giving that you may find helpful as you wrestle with those questions: Estate tithing and the concept of a child called “charity.”
Most, if not all, faith traditions include giving as a key tenant. For many local Christians, they follow the Bible’s call to tithe 10% of their income for the church’s work in the world during their lifetimes. What if you carry that concept through to “estate tithing” and designate 10% of your estate for charitable work as well?
A Child Called “Charity”
Another popular way of thinking about estate charitable giving is to metaphorically adopt a “child called charity” as you plan your estate.
Say you have three children. Instead of dividing your estate three ways, you factor in a fourth child, charity, and you divide your estate four ways with the fourth share going to the charitable causes you care about most.
Both concepts work regardless of your estate’s value. Percentage based, the amounts grow or shrink with your estate size and allow for you to make meaningful charitable gifts while still providing for your children at an appropriate level.
I have the privilege of being included in many charitable conversations as the Community Foundation is often a partner in this work.
Here are a few ways people partner with us:
Donor Advised Funds
Couples often establish a Donor Advised Fund through their estate, naming their children as advisors to the fund after they’re gone. This ensures that their children remain involved in charitable giving, as the fund’s resources can only be directed to nonprofits. The Foundation provides as much or as little giving guidance as requested. This is also a helpful tool for decreasing taxable size of an estate.
Managing Estate Charitable Distributions
Individuals/couples often name the Community Foundation as the administrator of the charitable portion of their estate. They indicate to the Foundation which nonprofits they’ll be supporting beyond their lifetime, the amount or percentage, and length of time. This ensures ease for the estate executor and allows for charitable gifts to spread out over multiple years.
70 individuals/couples recently leveraged a $20,000 matching opportunity, naming our Community’s Endowment as a beneficiary of their estate plan as part of our Today. Tomorrow. Forever. campaign to grow our Community’s Endowment. This is a gift to the entire Holland/Zeeland community that always remains relevant, responding to pressing needs and promising opportunities as they arise for generations to come.
I encourage you to consider the importance of an updated estate plan, and how meaningful and rewarding it is to include giving in your end of life planning.
Featured in the Holland Sentinel News in recognition of National Estate Planning Awareness Week in October 2016. While this was written by President/CEO Mike Goorhouse in 2016 , we believe that raising awareness of giving opportunities is timeless and always relevant.