It’s All About Control
Whether your attorney suggests a will or revocable living trust for your estate, how you ultimately manage your estate remains completely within your control. You can set your plans up once and for all, or modify things later if you wish.
Flexible charitable gift provisions can be devised at the same time that your will or revocable trust is prepared. Each of us can make a general bequest, give specific property, allocate a percentage of our estate, or give residual amounts to one or more individuals and charities. These may be done in any combination that accomplishes your personal objectives. The process is both simple and direct.
Your attorney will advise you on the best approach. For example, if specific property (such as a second home, stock in a business, or collectibles) is being passed to heirs, you must accept the fact that it probably will not have the same value or proportion in your estate as it does today. It may not even be owned at that time.
People wanting to distribute assets proportionately to heirs tend to choose percentage amounts. For some, it makes sense to pass a significant part of the primary estate by percentage, allowing for additional specific bequests. The residual estate can be transferred proportionately among heirs and charity. The best part: you alone control who received it, and in what amount.
When charitable gifts by will or revocable living trust are involved, not only is it smart to make these decisions in advance, it can also be tax-wise. You control the estate tax charitable deduction that shelters the value of the gifts dollar-for-dollar. Plus, capital gains taxes are avoided 100 percent. If your circumstances change, you can always change your mind by revoking the will or amending the trust.
If you want to benefit a charitable organization or cause, your estate plan can control this in a variety of ways, either during your lifetime or after. When doing so, let Martin Luther King’s thoughts about control be your guide: “If we are to go forward we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”
Always consult a qualified estate planning attorney to review your family and financial situation, your goals, and to explain the various options available to you. In the final analysis, basic estate planning is all about control – both during your lifetime and after. Once your estate plan is in place, peace of mind will follow, knowing that you have provided for yourself, your family, and what is most meaningful to you.
Article appears as originally published in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle, October 1, 2015.
Jackie Jacobs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Jewish Foundation, the Central Ohio Jewish community’s planned giving and endowment headquarters.