“More than the money we make, the awards, or recognition, or titles we earn, each of us will be measured by how much we contribute to the success of the people around us.” – Robert F. Smith
In a recent heartwarming event, billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the total student debt of the Morehouse College 2019 graduating class. Smith announced his promise while speaking at the school’s commencement ceremony, stunning the 396 graduating students as well as their families and onlookers. These young adults, now graduates of the all-male HBCU, were relieved of a heavy burden due to the life-changing generosity of one person.
This surprise deed is a positive break from an often-disheartening news cycle. It has also served as the focal point of many discussions revolving around student loan debt and philanthropic responsibility. As it relates to estate planning, it sheds light on a sometimes-neglected facet of estate planning: charitable giving.
Leaving a Legacy
Traditionally, the goals of an estate plan mainly center on the assets left to one’s family and beneficiaries. However, individuals may also have an interest in using their estate plan to benefit those who are in need. Charitable contributions can be made in conjunction with beneficiary designations, or one can choose to donate their entire estate.
Reflecting on Mr. Robert Smith’s significant gesture, his gift symbolizes something far beyond financial relief. This year’s new Morehouse alumni now have increased mobility and the option to further broaden their education. If you have considered using your estate plan to benefit the future of another individual, group, or organization, the time to plan is now. When one dies with no estate plan in place, the future of their assets is left to be distributed by state probate courts in accordance with state law. Rather than subject your hard-earned estate to this long process, it can be fulfilling to contribute toward a meaningful cause when you are deceased.
How You Can Give Back
One does not need to be a multi-billionaire to improve the lives of others via an estate plan. In fact, many are unaware that an estate plan can accommodate philanthropy and charitable giving in various forms.
Smith announced that his student debt relief would occur in the form of grants donated to the school. However, there are alternate options for accomplishing a charitable contribution. An individual can name charities and organizations as beneficiaries in their Last Will and Testament. Additionally, trusts and private foundations are other options for posthumous charitable giving. As with other elements of estate planning, it is suggested to seek an estate planning specialist to evaluate options and ensure that all legal obligations are fulfilled, giving you peace of mind in knowing your estate plan will empower others.