Annette M. Mulee

What will be your legacy?

By OCCC Foundation Board Member, Annette M. Mulee

It’s October already. The holidays will be upon us in no time and then the year will be gone. In addition to all the holiday fun and planning, year-end is also the time for some introspection and financial planning.

Have you thought about your legacy? Considered how you want to help future generations? What better life enhancer than education? Can your legacy include enhancing some person’s life by enabling education? You bet it can.

“But wait,” you say, “I’m busy using my current assets to raise children and generally live my life!” Indeed. That’s why there is something called legacy or planned giving. It enables you to plan for a gift in the future, without using current assets in most instances. The only things we can be sure of in life, as the saying attributed to Mark Twain goes, are death and taxes. Planned giving will allow you to enhance your legacy after your death and may even help a little with your estate taxes, too.

Where to start? How about with your goals and aspirations? Have you sometimes wished there were more and better nurses, teachers, or doctors in the world? More people doing scientific research or research into particular diseases? More people making more intuitive and easy-to-use phones and computers? Lifting people out of poverty?  Education can assist with all that, and you can assist with education with a planned gift.

The first and perhaps easiest way to make a planned gift is to name a charity or educational institution as a beneficiary on any financial account. Your bank or financial institution can help you do this. Suppose you have a “rainy day” savings account. Rather than have that pass through probate (if you have a will) or through your living trust, you can simply arrange to have the balance go to your selected nonprofit. You could even set up such an account, keeping full control over it (in case you need the funds) until your death, make deposits and then have it go to your selected nonprofit upon your death.

In Oregon, you can also have what is called a “transfer on death” deed for your real property. You may need to get a lawyer involved as you will have to use the correct form and record it with the local property recorder. But it, too, is relatively simple. Upon death, the property skips probate and goes directly to the specified nonprofit.

What is probably the most common way to make a planned gift, however, is to put it in your will or living trust. And there are several ways to do this. You can make a specific bequest (or distribution in a trust) of a fixed amount to your specified nonprofit or you can specify a certain percentage of your estate to benefit your specified nonprofit. And, if you are concerned that other gifts should take precedence (like to your children), you can name specific gifts to those others, and leave the nonprofit whatever is left. So, there is a lot of flexibility.

You can also decide what the nonprofit should do with the money and you should put these instructions in your will or trust. You can make it a “general” gift and they will use it where it is most needed, or you can tell them to use it to support the nursing; or teaching program; or aquarium science program; or for scholarships to those most in need. It’s your legacy and you are in control. An estate planning attorney can help you write or amend your will or trust to be sure that your wishes are correctly documented.

But please remember to tell the nonprofit about your planned gift. Every method mentioned above is revocable – you can always change your mind. But by letting the nonprofit know what you are planning, they will be on notice on how you want the money to be used and can also be better prepared to accept it.

Finally, please also tell your other beneficiaries what you are doing. Let your children or siblings or whoever your heirs are know that you are leaving a planned gift as part of your legacy. It might even encourage them to do the same.