For the past few years, my church has set up “Giving Machines” along the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The “Giving Machines” are like vending machines that allow people to purchase items or services for those in need. A person can purchase food for a poor family, or socks, shoes, or other items to be donated…I have even seen where a person can purchase a chicken or a goat and have that donated to a less fortunate family. These temporary “Giving Machines” are not always well understood, or well publicized. As such, we members of the church will go down and perform near the “Giving Machines” to draw attention to them.
On one day of the week, I will go down to the “Giving Machines” with my family to sing Christmas carols, or have other family members of my family play the piano, or the flute in the case of my middle daughter, and entertain people as they walk by. The hope is that the passers by will stop and notice the “Giving Machines” and donate what they can. This is one way my family gives and serves in the community, but it is not the only way.
Each year, we pick another family that we know is less fortunate to help around the holidays. We either help with Christmas gifts, or with Christmas meals, or Thanksgiving meals. Of course, we do help anonymously, as we don’t need credit for what we do. I only tell the story now to show how my family has established a legacy of giving and service. My parents did this when I was growing up, and I am doing the same for my children. I recall being a teenager, and hearing one of the recipients of our help recall the wonderfulness of having received a box of food the very day they ran out, and that they were able to have a Thanksgiving dinner because of our help. We never told them it was us, but I still recall the great feeling of having known we made a difference.
You Can Make A Difference
Not everyone has the finances to give financially, or the time to serve in ways like I do. I completely understand that everybody’s situation is different, but many people want to establish a legacy from their life, and a legacy of doing good things, like giving and serving. Perhaps you want to donate to a “Toys for Tots” program or donate a Thanksgiving meal through a homeless shelter. Any way you can serve and help others is a good thing to do. As an opportunity for all of us, Colorado Gives Day is coming up on December 6th of this year. This is a day where we can all give something, whether it be our time, money, or just some love to others. I wouldn’t want to tell you how to give of your time or money, but I will say that if you want to establish a legacy, that is something you can do in a will or a trust. You can give money to help a cause that is important to you – whether that cause is your own family, like your children, or some other cause, like a charitable gift. You are not required to support a cause in your will, but if you are inclined to be charitable, using your will or trust can be a great way to do so.
You Can Establish Your Legacy Through Giving to Your Family
Most people I work with do not have a lot of extra money to give to a charitable cause, but rather they leave assets to their children. This is definitely a way to establish your legacy within your family. I know that I spend a significant amount of time and money caring for, and raising, my children. As a parent, I know it is my privilege and responsibility to provide for my children and help raise them to be good people. When I pass away, I will pass on the assets I have to my children, and allow them to use those assets to continue to build their own lives. My mother had expressed that she doesn’t worry about her children any less now that they are grown, but we do live on our own and make our own decisions, so it is harder for her to tell us what to do.
Fortunately, she raised us, along with my dad, to make good decisions. Just like my parents always want what is best for us as children, I want what is best for my children, and I have provided for them in my own estate plan.
As you establish your estate plan, you can plan for what is best for your children too. You may want to leave your children a lump sum of assets all at once, or you may want to leave them money over time, so that the asset might be preserved or stretched out. You may want to leave all of your money to your children, or you may just want to leave some of your money to the children, while providing for other people or organizations. I have clients who provide money for their parents, or for their siblings, or even for nieces and nephews. There is no one right way to provide for those you love, but you can provide for those you wish to help.
You Can Establish Your Legacy Through Charitable Giving
Not all of my clients have children or family. I also have clients who don’t want to give everything to their children or family. Many of these types of people want to support a cause or a charity that is important to them, so they want to include the cause or charity in their estate plan. For those who want to do so, there are many ways to include a cause or a charity in an estate plan.
Many charities have specific language they want you to use in giving assets to the charity. Most larger organizations have departments dedicated to estate or legacy giving, and will publish the language to use in donating to them. Quite often, this information can be found on an organizational website. In setting up an estate plan, we can simply use the language provided by the organization to make sure the gift gets where it needs to go.
Not everyone wants to donate to an organization, but rather would like to establish their own thing. I have a couple of clients who are using their money to establish programs to care for abandoned dogs or cats. These couple of clients really love their animals and want to use their assets to provide for animals after they are gone. For these clients, we have established a trust and other organizations to use money to care for the animals after the individuals have passed on. Even when they are gone, they want their legacy to be that of helping the animals they loved, even if it is not their animals that they benefit.
You Can Choose How You Establish Your Legacy
Just like you can choose how, when, or if to serve others while you are alive, you can choose how to establish your legacy after your death. You can choose to benefit your immediate or extended family, causes that are important to you, or charities. In any case, you want to work with someone who can advise you on how to accomplish your goals and set up the best way to carry out those goals. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure your wishes and desires are carried out. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you know what options you have and help you set up a plan that will do what you want, so you are remembered as you would like to be remembered.