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An Estate With No Family To Pass It To: Motivations To Charity / York, PA

MP900382667WHETHER it’s treasured pearl earrings or a vintage camera, a house or what’s left of your life savings, deciding who should inherit your worldly goods means making sometimes wrenching choices. For older people without children, stepchildren or grandchildren, the decision can be even more complex.

Estate planning oftentimes means ensuring the future care and prosperity of one’s children, and through them, for future generations still. So what do you do when there are no kids, no grandkids, or not even so much as a stepchild to care for? What is estate planning without a family?

The New York Times recently touched on the subject of estate planning without a family.  It is an important topic for those without future generations to inherit their assets. If this issue affects you or someone you know, then be sure to read the article titled “In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First.

In the beginning and in the end, estate planning is always about disposing of your assets. Both in popular imagination and in the laws on the books, this commonly means the how and why of giving it to family members. Nevertheless, even with no lineal heirs to inherit your assets, there remains important decisions to be made. Optimistically, this means the sky is the limit.

Many elect to give to charity, and as the original article describes, this can be an ever more important life-choice and period of growth for you, and especially for a childless couple. You see, many see “family” as their only legacy. However, through philanthropy you can choose your legacy. To do so well and to really appreciate your choices can take some planning. In the end, however, the time and treasure required to get your estate planning done right is worth the satisfaction and peace of mind it affords. To build the right plan will take both competent counsel and a bit of soul searching, to be sure.

For more information about charitable giving, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The New York Times (May 2, 2014) “In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First

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The Conundrum Of Effective Charitable Giving / York, PA

MP900442452In late 2012, my wife and I looked at our list and decided to reallocate our giving. One big goal was to devote a higher percentage of our charitable budget to projects in the developing world, where additional dollars could materially change or save lives.

Is your charitable giving having the impact you expect? Are your dollars doing the work you intended? Is it time to reassess your personal philanthropy?

If you are wrestling with these and similar questions, you may be interested in a recent article in The New York Times titled “Donating, and Making Sure the Money Is Put to Work.

It is natural to want your charitable dollar to effect the greatest good and have the greatest impact. When that happens, it can be genuinely satisfying to both giver and receiver. In fact, when really done right, it may be harder to tell who truly is on the receiving end.

On the other hand, it can be rather disheartening when there is needless waste.

Case in point: the original article tells the story of a useful organization known as GiveWell and the troubled relationship with Against Malaria Foundation.

Perhaps you have your own concerns and your own story. If you are only just starting to reevaluate your charitable giving, then consider reading this article for any relevant advice.

For more information about charitable giving, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The New York Times (April 25, 2014) “Donating, and Making Sure the Money Is Put to Work

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Charity on “Spend-Down” Mode / York, PA

Giving-to-charity2More philanthropists are choosing to donate all of their foundations' assets within their lifetimes.

Sometimes good things are built to last, and sometimes you decide it has run its course. This seems to be the growing attitude amongst philanthropists tending to the family foundation. In fact, today's charitable foundations seem to be shifting from maintenance for longevity to spending down and winding up. This may give you pause to consider your own charitable giving, whether you are a donor to various foundations or, should you run one, to the future of the foundation itself.

This trend was identified in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “The Rise of Spend-Down Philanthropy.” The hard numbers in the article come from an analysis by the Bridgespan Group which found a marked jump in spend-downs. As reported there, “About 50 years ago, only 5% of the total assets of America's largest 50 foundations were held by spend-downs. In 2010, that number had risen to 24%, according to Bridgespan Group in Boston.”

Why spend down? Well it varies from foundation to foundation, but then it also relates to the purpose and nature of the foundation in the first place. The foundation typically has a philanthropic goal set up at its creation, but that goal may not carry forward past the original creator. This is especially true in a family foundation and, eventually, mission drift becomes a sustainability issue. The family may even not grow around the goal in the way originally hoped – they have lives, after all, and may not have the ability to keep up the foundation – and so the longevity may be in question due to logistics rather than the goal.

A spend-down mode should be meaningful to the donor, too. It means funds are going out the door and into the world, potentially having real effects today. Then again, and without a careful hand guiding the course, that doesn’t mean the cause is getting the biggest bang for its buck. These charities may tend to be less inquisitive and less thoughtful out of necessity of quick decision-making, and may not adopt long-term goals.

It is, if nothing else, an interesting trend to see the rise of the spend-down foundation, and maybe a meaningful one to think about when you think about your own goals in philanthropy.

For more information about spending down assets, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (April 13, 2014) “The Rise of Spend-Down Philanthropy

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