As an estate planning attorney, I have the opportunity to help people every day. Working with clients to craft an estate plan to transition their assets to their family members and friends is very rewarding. Not infrequently, clients come in with a general sense of what they want and walk away satisfied that they have been able to materially benefit people who are important to them.
Assisting clients with reaching their philanthropic goals carries its own sense of reward. Working with clients who have a desire to benefit one or more charities allows me to provide assistance to both the clients and the charity. At all times, the clients are my focus. The clients’ desires must be the driving force behind a charitable gift. However, I am often able to match clients with an organization that reflects the clients’ goals or to work with the clients and an organization to identify specific causes within the organization which work for both the clients and the organization.
Many estate planning attorneys fear that clients may find questions about charitable giving intrusive. My experience is the opposite. Certainly there are clients who decline and the conversation moves on. Many more clients, however, appreciate the question. At times, they may decide to push the concept off based on their assets and the ages of children. Others decide to include charities in their plans, even if just as an alternate beneficiary.
Just as clients come to me for guidance about the best manner of responsibly transferring wealth to a child, they depend on me to give guidance in other areas. I might suggest insurance on a stay at home spouse or a power of attorney over an elderly parent for whom they care. Similarly, we should not be afraid to inquire about whether a client wishes to continue to benefit a cause close to that client’s heart. These gifts may be driven by tax considerations or by complete altruism. Either way, they help the charities who are dependent on donations and, in almost every situation, leave the clients (and me) with a sense of having had an opportunity to make a long lasting impact on their community.
Elizabeth A. Green is a Member in PK Law’s Wealth Preservation Department. Ms. Green advises individuals with both basic and sophisticated estate planning needs including charitable planning and giving. Ms. Green can be contacted by phone at (410) 769-6150 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.