Your Will and Right Wording

Every once in a while I receive a phone call from an attorney wanting to know the full legal name of the Columbus Jewish Foundation. He or she is working on a will document that is to include a bequest for the Foundation, and the attorney wants to do it right.

It’s always good to receive these calls because problems can crop up when charities get inaccurately identified.

Early in my career, I was privy to edgy discussions on this very topic between the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and local community Federations that raised money for UJA National through their local campaigns.

Noses were out of joint over bequests made out to United Jewish Appeal. There frequently was ambiguity on whether the bequests were meant for local UJA campaigns or the National UJA.

After much angst, the following resolution was adopted on August 7, 1987:

We resolve that CJF circulate a memorandum to [local] Federations that would suggest the following: when bequests are made out to a beneficiary whose name includes “National United Jewish Appeal” or “United Jewish Appeal, Inc.”, that National UJA be informed, that the Federation should ascertain as precisely as possible the intent of the decedent and that if there is a question, there should be a process of negotiation and discussion between the Federation and the National UJA so that fairness and equitable distribution of resources take place. In addition, Federations should take the initiative of informing trust officers, attorneys, and accountants in their local areas of the precise name of our local, national, and international charitable organizations.

My point is straight forward: If you want to make a charitable provision through your will, the language naming the charitable beneficiary must be accurate and unambiguous.

You should provide your attorney with your charitable beneficiary’s correct legal name – and he or she then should double-check before finalizing the document.

Article appears as originally published in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle Thursday, November 9, 2017.

Jackie Jacobs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Jewish Foundation, the Central Ohio Jewish community’s planned giving and endowment headquarters.

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