Monday, June 27, 2011

WILL-O-THE-WISP*

This week’s mail included three direct mail appeals and three invitations to buy term life insurance. Do AAA, AARP, and TIAA-CREF know something about me that I don’t know? Or is June just a good time for this kind of sales to people in their early 50s?

I had already realized that I need life insurance before those offers arrived, so I actually opened these and read them. The plans are similar and the costs are roughly comparable, but interestingly, TIAA-CREF includes a “no cost” option to designate an educational or research institution as an additional beneficiary. That is, without paying extra for it, as long as I buy life insurance from them, I could make a charitable gift after my death to my alma mater, or my husband’s current employer, or some other qualified organization.

Kevin and I are already part of the 8 to 10 percent of adults that include a charitable bequest in our wills. The life insurance offers reminded me that it is long past time for us to review our estate plans. This got me to thinking about what charity or charities we might designate now and for how much.

We give regularly to six charities, plus to other opportunities that come up during the year. I’m not sure I want to make a bequest to each of those six. For a charity that I do want to benefit after my certain and eventual death, it would be good to “endow” our annual gift. A specific bequest equal to 20 times our annual gift, if invested, would allow the charity to withdraw 5 percent a year for at least 20 years, and longer if investment returns are high enough.

But how to decide the organization(s) to put in our will? Our alma mater is an easy choice: It is nearly 100 years old and will be around for decades and perhaps centuries longer. But we don’t make an annual gift there. However, Kevin’s professional library might be something a liberal arts college would be able to use. That, however, is probably a question we should ask before we put that in writing. There is no point in creating a gift that would be a burden. I mean, do YOU want to sort through 7,000+ history books to figure out which are of value to faculty or students these days, with iPads and e-books, etc.?

We support some local organizations that serve missions we care about, but the organizations themselves might not last forever. We could make a gift to the Central Indiana Community Foundation, but would a low four-figure endowment be large enough for them to bother with? And should I reward poor stewardship with a bequest gift (see Pay Day = Give Day)?

I want to arrange charitable bequests, but this will require more thought and discussion with Kevin and our kids. This is definitely not a gift to make on a whim, unlike Saturday’s $1 cash-register donation at our pharmacy to help find a cure for ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease


* According to Wikipedia, Will-o-the-Wisp is 'the folklore term for a ghostly light sometimes seen at night or twilight over bogs, swamps, and marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is sometimes said to recede if approached.'

1 comment:

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