Leaving Your Legacy

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Leaving Your Legacy

Many Options For Leaving Your Legacy

Your gift tells the Y story to future generations by showing that planned giving creates opportunities where they are most needed: through enrichment of the Y right here in Erie.  Before making any decision, please consult with an attorney and/or financial planner. Choose a variety of gift options:

  • Outright gift of cash, securities or property
  • Charitable Reminder Trust
  • Gift Annuity or Pooled Income Fund
  • Will bequest
  • Life insurance policy beneficiary or owner
  • IRA or retirement plan contribution
  • Memorial gift honoring a loved one

Talking about your estate planning isn’t always easy, but it’s probably a good idea to let your family in on your estate plans. To make the discussion easier, determine the “need to know” items in advance.  And, to prepare yourself for your family’s inevitable questions, review the following areas.

Plan to have a general discussion about your will’s provisions, with a reminder that changes may be made in the future. Explain any charitable inclinations you have that are reflected in your will.  Be sure to point out where your will and other important papers can be found, and give the names of your executor and attorney.

This instrument authorizes a person you choose to sign your name to checks, legal papers, tax returns, and other documents. If you become incapacitated, this person can manage your finances.  If you’ve already designated someone, decide if your family should be informed of your choice.

Assets you put in a trust can avoid probate and benefit your spouse, your children, and a charitable organization such as ours after your lifetime.  You may find it beneficial to discuss any trust arrangements with your family. 

Do you have strong feelings about the use of artificial or extraordinary methods to extend your life?  If your state recognizes a “living will”, discuss this option with your attorney.  In any event, let your family know how you feel.

Talking over your estate plans with your family may actually be a comfort for all you do.  You’ll feel assured that your family knows what to do should something happen to you or your spouse, and your family will be relieved that your affairs are in order.

If you’re among the 70 percent who don’t have a will, state law will divide your estate according to a rigid formula that likely will not reflect your wishes.  On the other hand, look at the good things you can accomplish by having a will.

  • Direct the division of your property the way you choose
  • Make special financial arrangements for family members who are minors, disabled, or unfamiliar with money management
  • Minimize the taxes on your estate by creating trusts
  • Provide support for your favorite charitable organizations, such as the YMCA – and gain recognition for your benevolence if you desire it.

Perhaps years ago you made a will.  Should you go do the trouble and expense of changing it now? A well-drawn will provides for certain contingencies and altered circumstances.  However, a will cannot foresee every change affecting your personal wishes, your residence, your property, your beneficiaries, the tax law, and your philanthropic wishes.  Situations such as these can spoil an old will.

Since your will was drawn, there have been births, marriages, divorces, or deaths which warrant changes in how your property is distributed. 

The laws among the states vary.  If you have moved to another state, the terms of your will may not conform to the new state’s laws.

When you made your will, your assets may have been relatively modest.  Now the value may be larger, and your will no longer reflects the division of your estate that you prefer.

Federal and state legislatures are continually tinkering with death tax laws.  An old will may fail to take advantages of strategies that will minimize estate taxes.

Errors and omissions made by the executor when managing assets during estate settlement can be costly to the estate and the beneficiaries.  Is your current executor qualified to handle the multitude of separate duties involved in settling your estate?

A new will allows you to perpetuate annual support to your chosen philanthropic cause and gain a special kind of immortality.

No will – or even an old will-means your wishes may not be carried out when your property is distributed.  Dependence on state law or will substitutes can result in heavy taxes and legal expenses.  A new will may also help your family avoid unnecessary conflicts.  For assistance with your will, see an attorney who specializes in estate planning.

You have a will, but you want to make a change. Should you have a whole new will drawn – or merely a codicil?  The purpose of a codicil is to add, take from, or alter the terms of your will. It must be signed with the same formalities as a will, including the required number of witnesses.

Clearly, a new will is preferable when you want to make numerous changes.  This avoids any confusion, and the cost of a lengthy codicil is not significantly less. The effects of marriage of divorce on an existing will vary from state to state.  Suffice it to say, it is easier and less traumatic to make a new will.

A codicil makes sense for a simple change, such as the addition of a charitable bequest.  Also, in some cases, speed in preparation and execution may be important. Your attorney may be aware of a particular provision in your old will that has an advantage protected by law which would be lost if you executed a new will.  Should there be a question about a testator’s competency to make a new will, a codicil is advantageous.  If the codicil is not admitted to probate, at least the old will can stand.

The riskiest thing you can do is mark up your current will by writing in your own changes.  This invites a will contest and costly litigation.  To make a change in your will that has the intended legal effect, be sure to consult your attorney. 

How much thought have you given to your choice of an executor, or personal representative, as it is often called under current law?  Your executor will be responsible for setting your estate, as directed in your will, during a difficult and emotional time.  In today’s complex world, this is a critically important job, but it can also be frustrating, tiresome, complex, time-consuming, and thankless.

You may be asked to be someone’s executor, and you may ask your spouse, child or other relative to be yours.  You can also name a corporate executor from an institution that specializes in estate settlement.  Usually, a family member is selected in the belief that the job is simple. But this impression could not be further from the truth.  For example, will your executor be:

  • Prompt and firm in collecting amounts due to your estate?
  • Experienced in resolving questionable claims against your estate?
  • Skilled in managing and protecting your investments?
  • Knowledgeable about ways to minimize estate taxes?
  • Liable for any errors in estate administration?
  • Sure to treat your beneficiaries fairly and impartially?
  • Mentally and physically vigorous – and always available?

Your executor should expect your attorney’s wise counsel about the legal aspects of estate settlement, but the ultimate responsibility for financial and administrative decisions will rest upon the shoulders of your executor.   This is why choosing an executor is a very important decision that should be carefully considered.

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Tammy Roche
Vice President, Financial Development
(814) 452-1432 ext. 252
[email protected]

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