On the surface, the idea of making plans for the end of one’s life seems like a grim prospect. But there are many positive and rewarding aspects to estate planning that most people don’t initially consider. One of those is deciding how others will benefit from the assets you leave behind.
For example, you can choose to give your remaining money or property to an organization, charity or other cause you strongly support. The city of Camarillo, California is now reaping the generous benefits of the bequest of a local citrus farmer who died in 2005. His estate plan included $11 million in donations to charities and public agencies, including the American Red Cross, and Camarillo’s health care district and public library. Each received 25 percent of that figure, with the rest going to a children’s home and the Ventura County Salvation Army.
Camarillo public library officials say that the $2.8 million it received — which expanded to $3.1 million over the past several years, thanks to investment earnings — will benefit the entire community, particularly local businesses, since the funds are being used to expand its collection of business materials, including books and digital media. The library is also planning on hiring a business specialist to reach out to the business community and help them and other library patrons make the best use of the new materials.
The library’s expansion plans correlate with the farmer’s plans for his bequest, which isn’t always the case. The more specifically you state your intended use for the assets you include in your estate plan, the more likely it is they will be followed. This is generally true whether you leave assets to an organization or members of your own family, as long as you plan your estate carefully and ensure that it’s administrated and executed properly.
How you can you accomplish this if you’re not around to enforce it? Complete and proper documentation is essential. You can accomplish this by working with a legal professional who focuses on estate planning and administration. He or she can walk you through the process and ensure that nothing is left to chance or misinterpretation. Even if you don’t have millions of dollars to posthumously give away, you’ll want to make sure that the assets you do leave behind go to their intended recipients and are used in the manner you intended.
Source: Ventura County Star, “Camarillo library plans to expand business collection with $2.8 million bequest,” Jennifer Letzer, Sept. 17, 2012