Two men having a conversation near the ocean

Several weeks ago, I held a survey about estate planning, through my GoFisch newsletter, blog, and social media platforms. I received over a hundred responses! Considering the sensitive and, indeed difficult subject matter, I thought this was a very significant number.

Action Time

You spoke loud and clear, and I heard you.

Child yelling into microphone

You don’t understand what an estate plan is. You’re not sure why you need an estate plan. You don’t know the process of putting together an estate plan. That’s understandable! Estate planning isn’t something most people deal with every day.

So, I wrote a series of short, but relatively thorough blog posts on each of these subjects, in plain English, free from legalese.

I explain what an estate plan is and outlined the six “must-have” documents everyone needs. I also detailed what a trust is, and about its benefits, here.

I wrote on the consequences of dying without an estate plan.

I also set forth my simple five-step process to get to a complete estate plan here.

But, that wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, by my own standards. Plus, actions always speak louder than words.

Cost Concerns Resolved

One of the most common concerns survey respondents cited was cost. There was tremendous confusion about how much an estate plan could/should cost. Some worried about the price being unaffordable for middle class Iowa folks. Worse, some respondents were genuinely fearful they would be told one price, and then pressured to a more expensive “package.” Or, that there would be a bunch of hidden fees and costs. Then there was the fear that you wouldn’t even know how much the estate plan would cost, until it was all over, and you got a bill (and by then, presumably, it would be too late to do anything about it if you thought the bill high or otherwise unfair). This approach, or the other with hidden fees, simply won’t fly with me; it’s advantageous for me to be transparent with my fee structure.

Estate Plan Sale

Again, actions always speak louder than words. You said you were concerned with cost, so I’m holding an estate plan sale.

estate plan sale image

For a limited time only (June 15 to July 15, 2017), you can receive a standard estate plan (which consists of the six “must-have” estate planning documents) for only $500. You will be billed only at the conclusion of this process, when you are executing the documents. So, obviously, you won’t pay anything until you are completely satisfied with both the plan and your understanding of the plan.

What if you need, or want, something more than the standard estate plan? Like, say, a revocable living trust? A standard estate plan, including a revocable living trust, will only cost you $1,000.

Let’s Talk…and Talk & Talk

I should note that either package comes with as many consultations (meetings, emails, and phone calls) with me as you reasonably feel we need to finish your estate plan. Again, you’re not sitting down to execute the documents, and so you’re not being billed (let alone paying anything!), until you are completely satisfied with both the process and the results of the process.

Now! Right Now!

Again, the special deal of $500 for a standard estate plan, and $1,000 for a standard estate plan plus a revocable living trust, will last only a limited time, June 15 to July 15, 2017. So, ACT NOW and do not wait!

Gordon Fischer discussing an Estate Plan with a Client

Contact Me

You can reach me most easily by email at or call my cell, 515-371-6077. Don’t delay, write or call today.

A great place to begin thinking about estate planning is with my free, no-obligation Estate Planning Questionnaire.

The Estate Plan Sale merely relates to pricing and in no way creates an attorney-client relationship, nor any other kind of professional relationship.
The Estate Plan Sale merely relates to pricing and does not create a contract or agreement of any kind.
GFLF, P.C. retains full and total discretion as to who it chooses to serve as clients and why. GFLF, P.C. retains the right to refuse service to anyone it chooses.
The Estate Plan Sale may not apply to individuals or families with a net worth of more than $1 million dollars. (You still need an estate plan, very much so, but it necessarily needs to be much more “complex.”).
estate plan sale


For a limited time only (June 15 to July 15, 2017), you can receive a standard estate plan (which consists of six “must-have” estate planning documents) for only $500 (five hundred dollars). You will be billed only at the conclusion of this process, when you are executing the documents. So, obviously, you won’t pay anything until you are completely satisfied with both the plan and your understanding of the plan.

man working at desk on computer

What if you need or want, something more than the standard estate plan? Like, say, a revocable living trust? A standard estate plan, including a revocable living trust, will only cost you $1,000 (one thousand dollars). A revocable living trust accrues several benefits, including avoiding probate; saving costs, taxes, and fees; getting bequests to beneficiaries more quickly; and privacy.

I should note that either package comes with as many consultations (meetings, emails, and phone calls) with me as you reasonably feel we need to finish your estate plan. Again, you’re not sitting down to execute the documents, and so you’re not being billed (let alone paying anything!), until you are completely satisfied with both the process and the results of the process.

Gordon Fisch Estate Plan


Why have an estate plan sale? Several reasons, actually.

To begin, the mission of my law firm is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa. Straight up, the more estate planning Iowans do, the more charitable giving will occur.

Sure, not everyone who constructs an estate plan uses it to give to charities, but many do. Again – it’s simply a numbers game; the more estate planning, the more money flowing to worthwhile causes.

Also, 60% of Americans don’t have a will/estate planning. I want to help combat that statistic in Iowa. We can do better. Working together, we will do better.

Grandpa face

Finally, everyone deserve access to a secure future and a legacy. For these reasons, I’m offering very special rates.


How much money are you saving? Quite a bit actually!

Speaking very generally, an estate plan from my Firm usually costs a single person about $700, and a family about $850. So, under this Estate Plan Sale, that’s a saving of about $200 for singletons to $350 for your family!

Family: mom, son, and dad

Also, speaking very generally, an estate plan including a revocable living trust, from my Firm, usually costs a single person about $1,300, and a family about $2,200. So, under this Estate Plan Sale, that’s a saving of about $300 for singletons and a whopping savings of $1,200 for your family!


Any Iowan is eligible. I am licensed to practice law in Iowa, and I have clients all over the state. In our modern age of emails, scanning, and cell phones, mere physical distance is not an issue.

I have clients from Burlington and Carroll to Sioux City and Urbandale. If you want to work with me, I want to work with you, and we can easily find ways to do so.


I write about my process at length, but it’s just five steps! Seriously, it’s not that painful, it truly isn’t. My clients report back to me that they have such relief and peace of mind when it’s completed.

Peace signs at the golden gate bridge



Again, the special deal of $500 for a standard estate plan, and $1,000 for a standard estate plan plus a revocable living trust, will last only a limited time, June 15 to July 15, 2017. I’m already backlogged, so ACT NOW. Do not wait!

We all know, of all the seasons, summer goes by the fastest. Time can run out on you; don’t let that happen.

You can reach me most easily by email at or call my cell, 515-371-6077. Don’t delay—write or call today.

A great place to start in on the process is with my Estate Planning Questionnaire.

mom and son on street


The Estate Plan Sale merely relates to pricing and in no way creates an attorney-client relationship, nor any other kind of professional relationship. The Estate Plan Sale merely relates to pricing and does not create a contract or agreement of any kind.
GFLF, P.C. retains full and total discretion as to who it chooses to serve as clients and why. GFLF, P.C. retains the right to refuse service to anyone it chooses.
The Estate Plan Sale may not apply to individuals or families with a net worth of more than $1 million dollars. (You still need an estate plan, very much so, but it necessarily needs to be much more “complex.”).
Investment stones

With regard to charitable giving, not all assets are equal. For tax reasons, some assets may be better to pass on to heirs, while others may be better to give to your favorite causes. Consider the potential tax treatment of retirement benefit plans such as IRAs, 401(k)s, etc. A simple story illustrates why, for example, an IRA may make a better charitable gift, while other assets may be better for heirs, based on tax provisions.

Old Man Lear and his Four Beneficiaries

Consider the simple story of old man Lear and his four beloved daughters: Cordelia, Goneril, Regan, and Ashlee. (Feel free to take a break and go brush up on your King Lear!)Lear, no fool, engages in estate planning with the intention of helping each of his daughters in the future. He has four major assets: his house, stock, a painting, and his IRA. Each asset is worth roughly the same (plus/minus just a few dollars).

four sisters

  • Lear’s house is worth $100,003. He purchased it for only $20,000.
  • Lear owns shares of stock in Acme Company, valued at $100,002. He bought the stock for just $50,000.
  • Lear has a famous painting of a castle. It’s valued at $100,009; he purchased it for $35,000.
  • Lear has dutifully paid into an IRA that’s now up to $100,020.

Nothing if not fair, Lear divvies up the four assets to each daughter. Do all four daughters get more or less the same deal?

Three Tax Concepts

Before answering, we need to consider three important tax concepts:

(1)        Inheritance as income

(2)        Income in respect of a decedent

(3)        Step-up in basis (also called, stepped up basis)

The interplay of these concepts may make charitable gifts of retirement plan assets more attractive to your clients than charitable gifts of other kind of assets.

Inheritance as Income

Under our federal income tax rules, receipt of almost every type of asset counts as income. One of the rare exceptions in inheritance of property. Generally speaking, inheritance is not income, for federal tax purposes. Most inherited property passes tax-free. (It’s true there is an Iowa inheritance tax. To keep this article simple(r), I’ll focus on federal tax).

Income in Respect of a Decedent (IRD)

Of course, with every rule in federal tax law, there’s an exception. Most inherited property passes tax-free, but not all. IRD is income that the deceased was entitled to, but had not yet received, at time of death. IRD can come from various sources, including:

(1)        Unpaid salary, fees, commissions, and/or bonuses;

(2)        Deferred compensation benefits;

(3)        Accrued but unpaid interest, dividends, and rent; and

(4)        Distributions from retirement benefit plans

That’s right – retirement benefit plans are IRD.

Federal tax law provides for IRD to be taxed when it’s distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries. IRD retains the character it would have had in the deceased’s hands.

Step-up in basis

Step-up in basis is a critically important concept. It refers to the readjustment of value of an appreciated asset for tax purposes upon inheritance. With a step-up in basis, the value of the asset is determined to be the market value of the asset at the time of inheritance, and not the value at which the original party purchased the asset.

Four Beneficiaries and Four Assets

Cordelia’s inherits the house. As we discussed, there’s no federal tax on inheritance. Cordelia sells the house for $100,003. Still, no federal tax. Although Lear purchased the house for only $20,000, recall that Cordelia receives a step up in basis. Cordelia’s basis is $100,003, the fair market value (FMV) of the house. Since she sells it for $100,003, there’s nothing to tax.

House key

When Goneril inherits the stock, there’s no tax—as there’s no taxable event. Soon, Goneril sells the stock. Although Lear purchased the stock for just $50,000, Goneril receives a step up in basis. Goneril’s basis is $100,002, the stock’s FMV. Since she sells the stock for its new stepped-up basis, there’s nothing to tax.

Stocks going up

Regan inherits the painting, with the same result. There’s no federal tax on inheritance of the painting. When Regan immediately sells the art for FMV, there’s nothing to tax, as the FMV, and step-up in basis, are the same.


How about Ashlee and the IRA? If Ashlee withdraws money from the IRA, it’s a different story. Ashlee will have to pay federal income tax of up to 39.6 percent. (It is true that Ashlee could defer withdrawals from the IRA for a long time, and of course such deferral reduces the impact of taxes.)

Ira egg in nest

To sum up, in this hypothetical, the house, stock, and art passed to the beneficiaries without any taxable event, and the daughter were able to sell without tax consequences. The IRA passed to the fourth daughter, but she will have to pay taxes when she withdraws funds.

When considering charitable gifts, also consider the tax code. And, considering talking to your kids about these issues. After all, not all assets are equally beneficial to heirs. In this case, retirement benefits plans may make an ideal gift to your favorite cause.

Magnifying glass over charity

Gordon Fischer Basics of Estate Planning Workshop

Let’s be honest, estate planning isn’t the most enticing topic to spend your free time on. The last thing you want to do after a long week at work is to dive into the depths of the internet to attempt to understand what an estate plan actually is and why you need one. Even if you do get that far, it’s hard to know where even to begin to start making an estate plan. Can you write one yourself? Do you have to hire a lawyer? What information do you even need?

Lucky for you, estate planning is one of my passions and what I spend a good deal of time and focus on while achieving the mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm: To promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa.

Gordon Fischer Law Firm mission

On April 26 at 325 E Washington St, Iowa City (in the large conference room on the 1st floor), I’ll take the mystery and complicated leg work out of estate planning. We’ll keep it simple and easy to understand while we cover:

  1. Five major reasons you need an estate plan
  2. Six “must have” estate planning documents
  3. Seven common mistakes in estate planning (and how to avoid them!)

Bring your questions and I’ll stick around after the presentation until all questions are answered.

The hour-long workshop is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served.

It’s been approved for one hour of CFP credit for financial planners AND for one-hour of CLE for Iowa lawyers.

Please RSVP to

Choose “going” on the Facebook event and invite your friends, co-workers, and family to join you!

Can’t make it to the event, but still want to learn more? Contact me at any time via email at or phone at 515-371-6077.

Prince 1958-2016

When Prince died in 2016 the world lost an icon and amazing contributor to music and art. Unfortunately, it has come to light that the award-winning artist passed away without an estate plan. Considering all of Prince’s 12 properties, eight vehicles, fine art, unreleased music, and hoarded gold bars, it’s estimated his entire estate could be worth $300 million pre-tax. Prince didn’t have any stocks or bonds but he did have about $6 million spread across four companies. A Minnesota court judge on the issue said without the will the estate’s current status is “personal and corporate mayhem.” Comerica Bank & Trust—the company that took over the Bremer Trust’s duties to administer the “Purple Rain” singer’s estate earlier this year—is still appraising the total value of the estate and itemizing everything Prince owned.

Paisley Park

Prince’s Minneapolis estate, Paisley Park Studios

The situation has created a tragic real world example of the infighting and conflict that can occur if passing away without a will; currently there are six potential heirs to Prince’s fortune including his sister and five other half-siblings.

Now, most Iowans aren’t going to have multiple gold bars sitting around and properties valued at over $25 million total, but that doesn’t make what assets and property you do have any less important. If you don’t have a will, it can cost your family and friends a lot of time, a lot of money, and indeed lots of anxiety and even heartache. Here are four reasons you need a will.

  1. Without a will, probate courts and the Iowa Legislature decide everything about your estate.

If you die without a will, you are leaving it up to the legislature/courts to decide who will receive your property. Or possibly even who will get to raise your children!

  1. Without a will, you cannot choose a guardian for your children.

After Prince died multiple claims were put forth about potential biological and adopted children. Whether or not those claims are true, you likely do know who your children are and if you die without a will, the courts will choose guardians for your children. One of the most important aspects of a will is that it allows you to designate who will be the guardian for your children. This can ensure that your children are cared for by the person that you want, not who the court chooses for you.

  1. Without a will, the probate court will choose your estate’s executor.

If you die without a will, the probate court is forced to name an executor. The executor of your estate handles tasks like paying your creditors and distributing the rest of your assets to your heirs. Of course, if the probate court has to pick who will be your estate’s executor, there is always a possibility that you would not have approved of that person if you had been alive.

If you have a will, it will name an executor who will carry out all of your final wishes, pay your bills, and distribute your assets just as you wanted.

Prince and purple symbol

  1. Without a will, you can’t give your favorite nonprofits gifts from your estate.

Prince was a resident of Minnesota, and each state has different matters regarding intestate succession (dying without a valid will). If you die without a will, your estate assets—your house, savings, life insurance, trusts—will pass to your heirs under Iowa’s statute. But, if you have a will, you can include gifts to your favorite nonprofits and see that they are helped for many years to come. Prince may have wanted to give to charities given his track record while living. He gave to Black Lives Matter, Harlem Children’s Zone, and National Public Radio. Prince was actively engaged with #YesWeCode, an initiative to train black children for good jobs in the tech industry. He gave more than $1.5 million over just two years to Love 4 One Another Charities Tour and supported an environmentalist group working to fight climate change and grown green jobs among other initiatives, Green For All. Regrettably, without an estate plan Prince didn’t have a chance to support these charities through his estate in the event of his death.

s-town theme

Let’s be honest, the topic of estate planning can be a little, well, dry. Every lawyer, financial advisor, real estate agent, and the like will encourage you to have a quality estate plan professionally drafted, but it tends to be one of those things you’ll get to eventually. Life happens, work piles up, your to-do list grows longer and deciding what you want done with your remains after you die seems like a worry for another day. But, once in a great while a story comes up where the topic of estate planning is so necessary and uniquely integrated that it’s hard to ignore—cue the buzz-worthy podcast, S-Town. The podcast broke a record with 10 million downloads in four days, so don’t just take my word for it.

S-Town header

Caution: A few spoilers ahead

If you haven’t listened to S-Town and don’t want to know ANY details of what unfolds, stop reading now. Go listen and then come back to read how S-Town exemplifies some of the key reasons you need a will ASAP.

The highly bingeable story from Serial Productions (masterminded by the producers at This American Life and Serial), takes place in a small town in Alabama. As This American Life producer Brian Reed dives into what appears to be a true crime story, in line with the first season of Serial, the tale takes an unexpected twist following an unanticipated death.

Brian Reed

Brian Reed, S-Town

The person who passed away didn’t have an estate plan. At first this may not seem like a big deal, but without a last will and testament, the individual’s death left a wake of conflict and confusion. Without an estate plan, a mother with dementia is left without defined care and guardianship; 13 dogs are left without a pet trust to declare who will care for them; property is fought over; a felony charge is issued; a religious funeral is held despite the deceased’s atheism; a house and land are sold, likely against the wishes of the individual if they had been alive; an immaculate, amazing garden maze will be destroyed; and because the deceased was “unbanked” there were no cash assets to pay for a funeral and other important costs. This person had verbally told some people what he wanted them to have in terms of property and monetary assets, but there was no written record, and such hearsay doesn’t hold up in a probate court.

S-Town maze

S-Town is not only an example of excellent storytelling, but also a real world example of what can happen when someone dies without putting in place clear directions and wishes for property, cash and non-cash assets, pets, health care, and final disposition. You don’t want your family and friends to fight, press charges, and dig up your property in search of gold when you die. So, there’s no day like today to have your estate plan drawn up.

A good place to start is with my obligation-free Estate Plan Questionnaire.

Already have an estate plan? Good. It’s probably time you reviewed and updated it.

Feel free to contact me any time to discuss further how to start an estate plan. I offer a one-hour free consultation, without any obligation. I can be reached any time at my email,, or on my cell, 515-371-6077.

Rotary Logo

I’m proud to be an active Rotarian. I’m also proud to be an Iowa lawyer.

And, I am proud of the singular, perhaps even unique, mission of my law firm. The mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa.

Iowa City Noon Rotary

To achieve this mission, I help individuals, families, and businesses with estate planning that ranges from simple wills to complex trusts. I assist nonprofits reach their philanthropic goals. I guide donors in increasing their charitable giving.

Naturally, my membership in Rotary and the mission of my law firm intersect perfectly when it comes to supporting the Rotary Foundation. The Rotary Foundation does so much good both here at home and around the world.

As the Rotary Foundation states on its website, the Foundation “taps into a global network of Rotarians who invest their time, money, and expertise into our priorities, such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. The Foundation grants empower Rotarians to approach challenges such as poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition with sustainable solutions that leave a lasting impact.”

Rotary Club Cover Photo

As a Rotarian, and as a lawyer, I wanted to share some of my expertise to allow Rotarians to give even more generously, so the Rotary Foundation can continue to do, and perhaps even expand, their great work.


It’s easiest to understand charitable giving by looking at it in two broad categories: giving during lifetime (called inter vivos transfers), and giving at death (testamentary transfers). There is a third category which lawyers call “split interest gifts”—tools that can be used during life or by operation of a will (such as, charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts).

Read on to learn more about testamentary gifts made through your estate plan. Then we’ll talk about charitable giving during your lifetime. Finally, we’ll discuss two special philanthropic tools that can both be used during life and at death.


You can help on chalkboard

Estate plan is set of legal documents

An estate plan is simply a set of legal documents to prepare for the event of your death or disability. Note I said “estate plan,” and not “will.” While these terms are often used synonymously, they are not at all the same thing. An estate plan is a set of legal documents, and a will is just one of those documents, albeit an important one.

Six “Must Have” Estate Planning Documents

There are six documents that should be part of most everyone’s estate plan. Plus, you should keep these documents updated and current. Also, don’t forget about assets with beneficiary designations, such as savings and checking accounts, and retirement benefit plans. For many Iowans, that’s enough— keeping six documents and assets with beneficiary designations current.

I’ll just briefly touch on five of the six documents, before we dive into your will and charitable gifting to the Rotary Foundation.

Estate Planning Questionnaire

You should begin with an estate planning questionnaire. (Like this one on my website.) An estate plan questionnaire is an easy way to get all of your information in one place, and it should help you understand and prioritize estate planning goals.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney for healthcare designates someone to handle your healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. This essentially gives another person the power to make medical decisions on your behalf.

The power of attorney for financial matters is similar, only your designated agent has the power to make decisions and act on your behalf regarding your finances. This document gives your agent the authority to pay bills, settle debts, sell property, or anything else that needs to be done if you become incapacitated and unable to do this yourself.

Disposition of Personal Property

Another useful document is the disposition of personal property. This is where you get to be specific about items you want people to have, say, your eldest daughter getting your wedding ring, or your nephew getting your baseball card collection.

Disposition of Final Remains

Yet another helpful document is the disposition of final remains, where you get to tell your loved ones exactly how you want your body to be treated after you pass away. This could include details on burial or cremation, and what type of service(s) you want.

Where there’s a Will, There’s A Way to Help Rotary Foundation

Now let’s get to the will. With your will, you’ll be answering four major questions:

  1. Who do you want to have your stuff? A will provides orderly distribution of your property at death per your wishes. Your property includes both tangible and intangible things. (An example of tangible items would be your coin collection. An example of an intangible asset would be stocks.)
  1. Who do you want to be in charge of carrying out your wishes as expressed in the will? The “executor” is the person who will be responsible for making sure the will is carried out as written.
  1. Who do you want to take care of your kids? If you have minor children (i.e., kids under age 18), you’ll want to designate a legal guardian(s) who will take care of your children until they are adults.
  1. What charities do you want to support with your estate assets? Which of your favorite causes do you want to support at death, like the Rotary Foundation?

Four Types of Bequests

Charitable gifts in a will are called “bequests.” Generally speaking, there are four types of bequests.

  1. Pecuniary Bequest: A gift of a fixed or stated sum of money designated in a donor’s will. An example: “I give the sum of $10,000 (ten thousand dollars) to Rotary Foundation.”
  1. Specific Bequest: A gift of a designated or specific item in the will. The item will most likely be sold by the organization and the proceeds would benefit that nonprofit. An example: “I give my Grant Wood painting to Rotary Foundation.”
  1. Residuary Bequest: In legal terms, a “residue” of the estate is what is left of the estate after payment of debts, funeral expenses, executors’ fees, taxes, legal, and other expenses incurred in the administration of the estate, and after any gifts of specific assets or specific sums of cash. The estate residue would include all property, both personal and real estate. A residuary clause is a provision in a will that passes the residue of an estate to beneficiaries identified in the will. An example: “I give all of the residue of my estate to the Rotary Foundation.”
  1. Contingent Bequest: A gift in a will made on the condition of a certain event that might or might not happen. A contingent bequest is specific and fails if the condition is not made. An example: “I give the sum of $10,000 (ten thousand dollars) to my niece, Jane Smith, if still living. If my niece fails to survive me, I give the sum of $10,000 (ten thousand dollars) to the Rotary Foundation.”

Which type of bequest to the Rotary Foundation should you choose? It really depends on your personal circumstances. Consult your individual estate planner for specific advice.


It’s been said, “you should be giving while you are living, so you’re knowing where it’s going.” Many Rotarians have intentions to donate eventually to the Rotary Foundation, often, as we’ve been discussing, at death through their estate plan. But why not give now? You can have more say about your gifts while you are still alive, and also feel the joy that comes with helping the cause you care about most. There are also lots of good tax reasons for giving now rather than later.

Imagine Rotarian Jill Donor, wanting to help her favorite nonprofit. When asked for a charitable gift to the Rotary Foundation, Donor agrees and immediately reaches for her checkbook, or goes online to donate with a debit/credit card.

It’s noble for Donor to give. However, consider this question: should Donor give cash? Or, does Donor own other non-cash assets which might be more tax-savvy? Can Donor be even more generous in support of her favorite cause, while lowering her out-of-pocket costs for charitable gifts?

Also, keep in mind that cash is only a small sliver of Donor’s overall assets and net worth. Even putting aside tax benefits, couldn’t Donor give more to the Rotary Foundation by looking at her much more robust non-cash assets? Let’s explore some non-cash gift options.

Giving quote

Appreciated, Long Term, Publicly Traded Stock

All sorts of non-cash assets can be used for charitable gifts to the Rotary Foundation, but for several reasons, appreciated, long-term, publicly traded stock is a wise choice. It’s convenient to give, you can save money on capital gains taxes you would have paid had you sold the stock, and it’s easy to value.

Endow Iowa Tax Credit


All Iowans should be aware of the Endow Iowa Tax Credit. Endow Iowa allows donors who give qualifying charitable gifts to receive a whopping 25% state tax credit. I have some illustrations showing what great tax savings can be realized by use of the Endow Iowa Tax Credit.

IRA Charitable Rollover

The federal law known as the IRA Charitable Rollover allows individuals aged 70½ and older to donate up to $100,000, tax free, from their IRAs directly to Rotary Foundation. There are two threshold requirements. First, you must be age 70½ or older. Second, the retirement plan account must be an IRA. Want more details? This blog post digs in.

Retirement Benefit Plans

For those not yet 70 ½ and/or who don’t have an IRA, but another type of retirement plan, think about this. Sometimes owners’ retirement benefit plans must make what are called Required Minimum Distributions, or RMDs. Since you must withdraw RMDs, anyway, why not give the money to a worthy charity like Rotary Foundation?

For those who don’t yet have to make RMDs, remember that after age 59 ½, generally you can make withdrawals from your retirement benefit plan without any tax penalty. If indeed there’s no penalty, and you make a charitable gift from your retirement benefit plan, you can presumably take an income tax charitable deduction. This should therefore be a “wash” for tax purposes.

Also, keep in mind: you can make a very meaningful gift simply by naming the Rotary Foundation as beneficiary of an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan. Giving retirement assets in this way is quite easy. Simply contact the institution holding your retirement plan, request a change of beneficiary form, fill the form out completely and correctly, and return the form. Typically naming a beneficiary in this way does not require drafting or amending a will or trust.


A “split interest” gift is when a donor makes a gift to a qualified charity, like the Rotary Foundation, but retains the right to a portion of the gift. Typically, the gift is divided into lifetime income and asset value at death. The majority of donors retain income during their lifetime.

There are two split interest gifts which might be greatly helpful to donors wanting to support the Rotary Foundation. Let’s discuss each briefly.

Charitable Gift Annuity

A Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) is a contract. It’s a contract that combines the benefits of an immediate income tax deduction and a lifetime income stream. Also, your future taxable estate will be reduced for the remainder value of the property transferred to charity.

A CGA is an arrangement in which you make a gift of cash, or other property, in exchange for a guaranteed income annuity for life. This is similar to buying an annuity in the commercial marketplace, except that you can claim an immediate charitable tax deduction for the excess of the value of the property over the value of the annuity, based on IRS tables. The charity must receive at least 10% of the initial net value of the property transferred in order for you to claim a charitable deduction for a portion of the purchase price.

There’s much more to say about CGAs. I wrote an article detailing more specifics, as well as their benefit, check it out here.

Charitable Remainder Trust

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) provides a unique opportunity for donors to retain lifetime income from property while obtaining a current income tax deduction (or estate tax deduction) for the remainder interest which will pass to charity.

Charitable remainder trusts are often appealing to donors with appreciated assets, producing little or no income, such as real estate or securities. This is because the assets can be sold without capital gains tax and invested to provide a higher income stream.

A CRT separates the current interest and future interests in property and disposes of each differently. Income from trust assets is paid to at least one non-charitable beneficiary (often, the grantor or the grantor’s family) for a certain period. The payments can be made for the non-charitable beneficiary’s lifetime (or joint lives for multiple beneficiaries), or over a fixed period of up to 20 years. When the non-charitable beneficiary’s interest ends, the trust assets pass irrevocably to a charity. I’m doing a deep dive into CRTs with a three-part series, you can read the first post, here.


Iowa City Noon Rotary

What all this means is that you, dedicated Rotarian, have a treasure chest of choices when it comes to making charitable gifts that can have an impact. Charitable giving can, and should, be a mutual positive situation that benefits the Rotary Foundation as well as the donor. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to start a conversation with you about your estate planning and charitable giving goals. Feel free to reach out at any time; you can find me by email at or by phone at 515-371-6077. Or just grab me at Rotary Lunch!

Gordon Fischer has been an active and accomplished Iowa lawyer for more than 20 years. Gordon received his law degree, summa cum laude, from Southern Illinois University. After law school, Gordon clerked for the Iowa Court of Appeals. He then joined the Des Moines firm of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C. He became a partner and gained a reputation for skilled and conscientious litigation in all areas of law, with a focus on employment. In 2013, Gordon left the firm to become Vice President of Gift Planning Strategies for the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, where he helped donors plan and achieve their philanthropic goals. In 2014, he received the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation from The American College of Financial Services.   

Gordon serves his community and his profession in a variety of ways, on boards and commissions and as a mentor and hands-on volunteer, and through his involvement as a Rotarian. At Gordon Fischer Law Firm, P.C., he blends his legal expertise and commitment to the charitable sector and those who support its work.

Winning an Oscar Award Academy Award leaves a legacy

I, along with all of you, just watched the totally wild end of Oscars 2017. Here are five legal lessons you can take away from this debacle.

(1) Absolutely, positively ANYTHING can happen at ANY time. So, be smart, plan ahead, and secure your future and your family’s future. A major way to do that is through estate planning.

(2) Planning is paramount. Somewhere along the line, protocols weren’t met, and a wrong envelope was handed out at the wrong time. Proper planning would have — SHOULD HAVE — prevented that.

(3) Double check EVERYTHING. Are you SURE your will is updated? Are you POSITIVE your estate planning documents are still in that safety deposit box, and your kids have access? Are you CERTAIN you updated your estate planning documents after your third kid was born? Go see your estate planning lawyer. 

(4) Did Warren Beatty seem a bit confused? He and his family might consider a medical checkup, and might also consider a Healthcare Power of Attorney. I explain all about healthcare PoAs and their importance here: LINK. And I’m not picking on Warren, I’m really not. A Healthcare PoA is good for everyone. Seriously, everyone should strongly consider a Healthcare PoA.

(5) Download my Estate Planning Questionnaire. The Oscars may end in total confusion, but you shouldn’t. The Estate Planning Questionnaire will ensure a smooth and predictable ending, just like you want.


Winning an Oscar Award Academy Award leaves a legacy

What could the Oscars possibly have to do with the estate planning?

Actually, a lot. The most celebrated films – the Best Picture Award nominees – all feature themes of death and legacy. Certainly, in some films, this theme is more pronounced than in others. But in all the films, death and legacy are present, almost as if unseen actors just offstage.

In Fences, an ex-ballplayer openly mocks death, wryly declaring more than once, and always with a wink, “Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner.” Later, confronted with a sudden tragedy, he throws open a window and shouts into a storm, daring death to take him on.

In Manchester by the Sea, the tragedy of premature deaths washes over the entire story. Like waves relentlessly pounding the beach during a storm, the characters cannot escape memories of tragic loss.

Hacksaw Ridge is of course about death in war. The protagonist struggles, with tremendous courage, to save lives during the horrific carnage of battle.

Arrival actually features a “canary in a coal mine.” In movie’s dénouement, the characters are given a whole new way of looking at life and death, at past and present.

We shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by any of this, of course. Great art so often wrestles with the meaning of death and legacy. Think about Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, to Shakespeare’s plays, all the way to recent novels like Marilynne Robinson’s Lila and Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread.

In movies, characters so often face the riddles of death and legacy, because we do so in real life. How to give life meaning? How best to leave a legacy? Allow me to suggest that one very practical, and even relatively easy, way to secure your legacy is through estate planning.

For all of us, at some point, the credits will roll and the screen will go dark. Before that time comes, diligently plan so that your loved ones are protected and taken care of.

Perhaps most importantly for the question of legacy, through estate planning we can leave meaningful charitable gifts to our favorite charities. Without estate planning, it’s just not possible to make charitable gifts at death.

Do estate planning, do it right, so your testamentary gifts can help nonprofits for decades to come – quite a legacy for you. One might even say, proper estate planning, with a charitable component, is deserving of an award.

Now, pass the popcorn, and enjoy the show. Tomorrow, take some time to get started on your own legacy, by downloading my Estate Planning Questionnaire.