Long after we are gone, we want to know that something we cared about deeply is living on, thriving, getting better. This very human desire manifests as a driving force behind a lot of the good we see in our community. It is deeply personal and speaks to universal needs at once. It is also invisible to most who do not spend their professional lives in estate planning or philanthropy.
People from nearly every walk of life — including those you might never suspect — made careful plans for a charitable legacy before they passed. With a simple document, they provided direction for a portion of their estate to support the arts, education, environment, human services, health or animal welfare needs.
In the past year in Manatee County, legacy gifts gave hundreds of students the opportunity to attend college without insurmountable debt. They prevented child abuse with parenting education classes, funded home preservation projects and gave struggling adults the ability to thrive with the mental health counseling they desperately needed.
Legacy funds sent children from low-income families to the theater and gave children with disabilities the opportunity to participate in enriching arts programs. They provided canine companions for veterans. They made hundreds of spay and neuter operations for dogs and cats possible, preventing more overcrowding in the shelters.
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It’s not only the most successful businessmen and women who made this possible. People with modest lifestyles who saved their money, retired educators, quiet and unassuming couples, and others were behind this work.
Real estate, insurance policies, appreciated assets and savings are used to fund legacy plans. No matter your age or circumstance, it’s never too early to consider the amount, the recipients, the intent and most importantly, the results you want to see from your giving, now and after you are gone.
Legacy plans are flexible and personal, based on your own charitable passions and the financial resources you have. Some people allocate predetermined amounts to philanthropy in their bequests, but many choose to give a percentage of their assets, taking care of their families first.
You can designate one or more specific nonprofit organizations to be recipients or name a general area of interest or population you would like to benefit from your legacy. Some people choose to name their grown children as advisers on their funds so that they can make their own choices and enjoy the strategy and pleasure of giving.
Working with a community foundation to establish and administer a charitable legacy plan has many advantages. Staff experienced in philanthropic planning and knowledgeable about the community help create documents that will preserve donors’ intent forever.
Over time, if nonprofits that were named in a legacy document are no longer operating, foundations can find an organization with a similar mission that is accomplishing meaningful results. And plans can be as simple or as complex as donors need them to be. Foundation staff are adept at working with estate planning attorneys, CPAs and financial advisers on a team that always considers what is right for the donor.
In its most basic sense, legacy allows us to remember human beings through the lens of what matters to them. People who have the foresight and commitment to planning are ensuring a positive future in Manatee County for children, families, seniors, special places, animals. Because of them, there are endowed funds that grow over time and provide annual spending to support organizations that work closest to the most pressing issues we face.
Most of us hope something we do in life will be noteworthy enough to be remembered, all the while knowing that our time on this planet of ours is limited. We all have an equal opportunity to leave a legacy through the way we inspire our colleagues, friends, family and neighbors. The good things we do are not dependent on money. But when financial resources are available to invest, working with a trusted and experienced partner will ensure that wishes are carried out into perpetuity.
It’s well worth giving thought into your final gifts to our community now. Save your spontaneity for a weekend afternoon, not your wishes for lasting impact. Regardless of whether you have a formal relationship with the Manatee Community Foundation, our team is a resource for you. We can help you think through what is possible and how it can work.