“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” -Arthur Ashe
On Veterans Day and every day, I want to say a heartfelt thanks for our veterans’ sacrifice and service. I work with many veterans on estate planning and in nonprofit-related work, and it’s always an honor. There are not enough “thank you’s” in the world to express my gratitude for what they have done for our country.
As a veteran your story is important. Your legacy is important. To preserve that legacy of strength and service, you need an estate plan to ensure your property and assets are distributed to your loved ones and favorite charities in accordance with your wishes.
So, in an attempt to express my gratitude I would like to offer 25% off the cost of an estate plan package to all Iowan active duty or retired service members. The discount will be honored through 11/30/2019. Contact me via email or by phone (515-371-6077) to discuss your estate planning needs.
What does an Estate Plan Include?
There are six documents that should be part of most everyone’s estate plan.
- Estate planning questionnaire
- Power of attorney for health care
- Power of attorney for finances
- Disposition of personal property
- Disposition of final remains
You should keep these documents updated and current. (Here are a few common “big” events that necessitate estate plan revisions.) Also, don’t forget about assets with your beneficiary designations. For most Iowans, that’s good – six documents, keeping them current, and also remembering about those assets with beneficiary designations.
Cost of an Estate Plan
Because I want every Iowan to have an up-to-date estate plan I’m very transparent with the cost of an estate plan that takes into full consideration YOUR situation. (This is why you need an experienced estate planner to draft your documents.) Speaking very generally, an estate plan from my Firm usually costs a single person about $790, and a family about $990. So, with this Veterans Day discount, that’s a saving of about $197.50 for singles to $247.50 for a family.
Estate Planning Process
I write about my process at length, but it’s just five steps! Seriously, it’s not that painful. My clients report back to me that they have such relief and peace of mind when it’s completed.
With its feast of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, Thanksgiving is the obvious holiday to look forward to in November. But the overall focus of Thanksgiving—the concepts of giving, sharing, practicing gratitude—is something you can cultivate for the entire month of November, especially on the lesser-known “holidays” of National Philanthropy Day and Giving Tuesday(technically in December this year).
National Philanthropy Day
On November 15 plan to celebrate National Philanthropy Day (NPD) with a donation of time or funding to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart. No matter how much you’re able to give, the point of this day to recognize that charitable donors and volunteers make a significant difference and impact. As the Association of Fundraising Professionals puts it:
“NPD is a celebration of philanthropy—giving, volunteering and charitable engagement—that highlights the accomplishments, large and small, that philanthropy—and all those involved in the philanthropic process—makes to our society and our world.”
A man by the name of Douglas Freeman conceptualized and organized the initial (unofficial) National Philanthropy Day in the early 1980s. Then in 1986, President Ronald Reagan designated NPD as an official day. NPD is also a key event a part of a grassroots movement that intends to raise awareness and interest for the importance of effective philanthropy.
Popular on and spurred forward through social media, Giving Tuesday is often found with an accompanying hashtag (#GivingTuesday). Billed as a “global giving movement” Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and after the shopping sprees of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Held on December 3 this year, it’s seen as the sort of kickoff to end-of-year giving and it’s encouraged you donate your time, monetary donation, or even just your voice and ideas to a charity/cause that you care for.
With giving top of mind in November, maybe you have an idea for how you would like to support the important charities you care about but are unsure of how to go about making certain donations. For instance, did you know you can give to charity through your estate plan? How about the immense benefits of the retained life estate? How does giving fit in with your retirement benefit plan? I’m happy to help. Email me at email@example.com or drop me a line at 515-371-6077.
After the onslaught of Black Friday advertising and Cyber Monday announcements filling up your inbox, Giving Tuesday (December 3 this year) feels like a breath of fresh (wintery) air from the shopping rush. The “holiday,” often known by its social media tag of #GivingTuesday, is all about celebrating generosity and philanthropy. Giving charitably to your favorite organizations feels great and allows you to make a difference in your community, state, and the world. But, you also want to make sure your gift is legally compliant and beneficial, particularly for those who are “bunching” their donations to claim the charitable deduction on federal income taxes.
Before you donate on #GivingTuesday (or any other day) consider these legal tips:
Make Sure the Charity is Qualified
A charitable deduction can result in significant tax savings, but for that to occur, the donation must be made to a qualified 501(c)(3). While that may sound basic, some initiatives may look like nonprofits but actually operate as a business, not a tax-exempt organization. A little bit of research can go a long way here. First, read up about the organization in question online and don’t hesitate to call to speak to a representative. You can also use the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Select Check; limit the search to organizations eligible for tax-deductible charitable contributions.
(If your favorite organization is in need of assistance for obtaining tax-deductible status, don’t hesitate to reach out.)
Proper documentation is required in order to take the charitable contribution deduction for contributions of $250 or more. This means you need written acknowledgment that expresses the required info of the donee (charity), date of donation, and monetary amount. It’s your legal obligation as the donor to ask for the written acknowledgment, not the charity’s obligation to offer it.
Here’s a simple breakdown of what’s needed for specific types of giving-
- Gifts of less than $250 per donee — you need a canceled check or receipt
- $250 or more per donee — you need a timely written acknowledgment from the donee
- Total deductions for all property exceeds $500 — you need to file IRS Form 8283
- Deductions exceeding $5,000 per item — you need a qualified appraisal completed by a qualified appraiser
Need more info? I go into detail about appraisers in this blog post.
Restrict in Writing
If you feel strongly about a specific program, region of operation, or use within the nonprofit, you’ll want to restrict the charitable donation. The restriction must be made in writing, at the same time as the donation is made.
#GivingTuesday has expanded greatly since its founding in NYC to become a global event. You may hold a foreign-based charitable organization near and dear to your heart and, of course, you may give to that organization, however, your donation won’t qualify for a charitable tax deduction.
I work with my estate planning clients on defining their goals for their future and assets. The same baseline advice applies to charitable giving—what are your goals? Do the organizations you are donating to support your giving goals? Look at materials published by One way to gauge this is by reviewing the nonprofit’s annual information on its Form 990, “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax.” This form is intended for the public and includes important financial info. The IRS publishes Form 990 and it’s easy to check out the details on Guidestar, a nonprofit database.
If you have any questions on how to give charitably and do so wisely, don’t hesitate to reach out. Maximizing charitable giving in Iowa is the mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm and we want to help as many Iowans give confidently as we can!