As an estate and special needs planning attorney, the great majority of people that I come into contact with, whether they be friends, clients, colleagues, or associates, have a charitable cause or belief that is very near and dear to their hearts. Although charitable concerns are not exclusive to those people I know, recent statistics show that less than 8% of households in the United States include some sort of charitable giving in their estate plans.
Many would read the headlines about how Bill Gates, Jr. donated $500M to this organization or that one and would believe, mistakenly so, that there are more than enough charitable organizations, businesses and people in this country that they need not worry about contributing themselves. Seeing others donate that much perhaps causes them to think that their contributions are unnecessary. With that misconception, they reduce or altogether quit dedicating some of their time or financial resources to charitable causes.
Charity is not physical act, it is a state of mind. Charitable people are that way not simply because they can be, but more profoundly because they believe it is right. It reminds me of a saying that my father-in-law shared with me. When commenting on charity, he said, “no amount of money makes a person charitable. If you’re not charitable when your poor, you’re not going to be charitable when your rich.” Working so much and so closely with special needs organizations, funds and families, I can attest to the fact that every dollar counts; and whether your estate is worth $500,000 or $500,000,000, your contribution makes a difference.
When you sit down to prepare your estate plan, be sure to spend some time thinking about how your favorite charity fits in to that plan. Speak with your estate planning attorney about how best to structure your charitable gifts (either during life or at death) to ensure that your charitable dollars work the way you want them to work.