Heard on the Web: Philanthropy or Spite?

Heard on the Web: Philanthropy or Spite?

News story posted in Estate Planning on 31 July 2009| 6 comments
audience: National Publication | last updated: 18 May 2011


From our friends at Trusts & Estates comes an article on a topic based on a real life case that many planners must unfortunately confront. There's no gentle way to couch it: "Is my client giving their estate to charity because they are philanthropic or because they would rather give it to anyone other than to their heirs?"

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Where's the Spite?

I see no petty ill will or hatred here; rather, I learn of a man who exercised his free will to transfer his wealth to his heirs, hospital and to alleviate children's hunger in the proportion that he believed would do the most amount of good and the least amount of harm. The only spite I see is with the beneficiaries who are contesting the will and trying to thwart his testamentary intentions.

Sad article

A SAD (or easily misunderstood) article, as it..... 1. Uses flamboyant language ("wild", "outrageous") for what may be a very well-thought out intentional estate plan (isn't that the goal?). 2. Missed the opportunity to extoll the creativity of a very leveraged charitable gift (much like Joan Kroc). 3. Quotes the the decedent's attorney regarding client comments and arguably the client's own assessments should have still been subject to attorney-client privelege. 4. Seems to assume that certain beneficiaries have entitlements ("a slap in the face"), when the most important aspect of our estate planning law is that, subject to any statutory spousal rights, each individual is endowed with the freedom and power to design his or her own estate without legal obligation to others. I obviously cannot opine on the merits of the will contest or the ultimate legality of the will, but the concept appears to be an ingenious plan to address poverty based upon motivating or enlisting the help of others. We can all only wish every client was as thoughtful about their decisions, whether considering philanthropic bequests or not. Nick Taylor Omaha Estate Planning Attorney

Misleading entry?

Interesting story, but what does it have to do with the question that's your lead-in, i.e., "Is my client...?"

Misleading entry?

No, we don't think so. The point we were trying to make was that many planners will be faced with assisting in the creation of the plan that, as in this case, might result in litigation.

Philanthropy or Spite

Interesting story.

Who cares?

As long as the money actually does provide the charitable benefits, I say, "who cares if it is philanthropy or spite" that motivates? :-)

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