Philanthropic giving may cross a person’s mind when working on a will. And if it’s something they would like to do, area professionals said planning for it can have an impact on organizations.

According to Michelle Debelak, director of gift planning and advancement at Cleveland State University Foundation in Cleveland, and Joe Mentrek, partner and chair of the estate planning group at Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP in Cleveland, the initial thing estate owners should do is consider what they want to accomplish.

“Once they have some basic answers on that, we can figure out what to do,” Debelak said. “Bequest giving is really simple and (organizations) certainly want to know (about gifts.) We want to thank you while you are alive and then we also want to follow up with what the expectation would be. At CSU, we have certain limitations on scholarship dollars. You never want someone to leave something and you can’t use it. We try to work with donors to figure out language that can accommodate for changes.”

Mentrek said the process usually begins with a client making assessments about his or her personal situation before starting to think about charity. 

“Two of the most important questions they need to ask themselves is how much is enough and how much is too much,” he said. “How much do they need to see themselves through their lives comfortably. They also then need to think about their non-charitable beneficiaries and what is too much for those individuals. The answers aren’t always the same for every family.”

Debelak said she thinks tax reform will make planned giving more important.

“This will have people thinking more long term,” she said. “There are a lot of ways to look at it and it starts with the question of what they are trying to accomplish. Most people want to leave assets to their heirs and then consider charitable intent. For more people, estate tax isn’t going to be something they should worry about. It’s about how are they going to give to those they want to give to.”

Mentrek said planned giving is really about the deployment of social capital.

“If you pay the estate tax, you’re giving the government the chance to decide how that social capital is deployed,” he said. “If you put charitable giving in your plan, it will reduce your estate tax and you are then given the choice of how your social capital is being deployed. So instead of government programs, you’re supporting the social programs important to you.”

Debelak said an important aspect to consider is that planned giving is not just for retirees.

“People who are in their 40s and having kids, that’s a great opportunity to say they want money to go to their kids but whatever is left over can go to charities,” she said. “You can make a legacy gift and not feel an impact in your day to day. You can do planned giving at 20, you can list an organization as a beneficiary on your life insurance.”

Mentrek said organizations are happy to work with individuals to structure gifts in a way that is beneficial to the organization and the individual. 

“The bottom line is satisfying the goals of the client,” he said. “Give early and give often. If these causes are important to you – it’s our obligation. If we’re fortunate enough to be in a position where we can help, we should all pitch in and do it.”

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