Do Something Memorable

Smart estate planning can ensure that your legacy lives on to benefit others

Thursday, June 9, 2016 | 1:59 am

What will your legacy be? Ironically, for so many, their contributions to their fellow man far exceeded their accomplishments while they were alive.

People’s bequests in their wills and estates have ranged from the beautiful and the heartbreaking to the downright bizarre. Yet each has made a lasting impression to those left behind.

Comedian Jack Benny provided a fund for a long-stemmed red rose to be delivered to his wife, Mary, each day, for example. Portuguese aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara left his entire fortune to strangers whose names he found in a Lisbon phone book.

And earlier this year, the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) was the lucky beneficiary of a surprise gift. Elizabeth Verdow, a devoted volunteer and former art teacher, left $1.7 million to the institute to be used to acquire new artworks and support the institute’s endowment, and most importantly, to remember and honor a place that clearly meant so much to her.

Beautiful or eccentric, these are all examples of the most powerful aspect of estate planning—cementing a legacy for years after one is gone. Jack Benny’s love for his wife, Cabral da Camara’s odd nature, and Verdow’s love of art all continued to resonate long after their passings.

In Verdow’s case, so many deserving non-profit groups’ budgets often exceed their donations, according to Alexandra Smyser, estate planning attorney at the law offices of Donald P. Schweitzer.

“Groups rely on the gifts of their supporters to cover that gap and invest in long-term goals and infrastructure,” she explained. “Charities are often only able to keep their doors open and continue to flourish as a result of generous planning on the part of their supporters like her. This is just one example of where a bequest can mean so much to someone else.”

There are many opportunities in Pasadena to find a group that will continue your legacy through a charitable gift. And, according to Smyser, it’s easier than one might think.

“Traditionally, charitable gifts are made through a will or a living trust with a person giving a dollar amount or a percentage to a charity,” added Smyser. “Another option is to name a charity as a full or partial beneficiary on your retirement assets or a life insurance policy.”

Of course, not all of us are able to give as generously as others. But, says Smyser, in addition to the traditional options, there are many more sophisticated estate-planning tools that allow you to leave a charitable legacy while simultaneously providing for your family and receiving beneficial tax treatment. Often, the organizations themselves have charitable gift planners that will guide you through vehicles that can help accomplish your goals.

As you are contemplating your own estate planning or looking to make some revisions, think about what your legacy might be. Are you a regular tither at church? Do you want to see our four-legged friends taken care of? Do you spend countless hours volunteering for a cause that is dear to your heart? Are you an ardent supporter of your alma mater? Leave a lasting legacy by providing for those beloved organizations in your estate plan.

While it’s true that you can’t take it with you, it can still do so much for you and yours long after you’re gone. Whether rose or random, a bequest in your estate planning can make all the difference in your own long-living legacy.

Alexandra SmyserAlexandra Smyser is an Associate Attorney at the Law Offices of Donald P Schweitzer in Pasadena, Ca. She handles all areas of Estate Planning including trusts, wills, probates, general and limited conservatorships, and special needs trusts. For more information on estate planning contact Ms. Smyser at (626) 683-8113 or visit




blog comments powered by Disqus