Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy NEPAW! Hug an Estate Planner!

October 21 through 27 is National Estate Planning Awareness Week, a special time of year when we pause to consider a subject that warms a gift planner’s heart: wealth transfer. In 1999, Paul Schervish and John Havens, of Boston College, released their conservative estimate that $6 trillion would be transferred to charity via bequests between 1998 and 2052. The nonprofit community has been working and watching for those bequests ever since. But in an interview with The Journal of Gift Planning in 2006, Paul Schervish noted, “We’ve said from the beginning that people from the nonprofit world and donors could make our predictions invalid by shifting giving from estate to lifetime giving.”

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Paul is an honorary co-chair of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, and when I called to congratulate him, he reminded me that the very detailed microsimulation model that yielded the wealth transfer projections was a product of the 1990s, when estate plans really were the conduit for most large planned gifts. “Financial planning is a place where charitable planning tends to happen now,” Paul told me. In the near future, he and John Havens will publish a new national study that is expected to show the trend toward inter vivos wealth transfer for high net worth Americans. He’s optimistic that wherever transfers are structured, charities can expect to see increased giving. “When people have more to give, and they have a choice between giving more to their heirs or to charity, we already see a tendency to give more to charity,” Paul told me.  “It’s really all about the economy—is it operating in a way that allows people the maximum ability to give?”

If financial planners and accountants become the primary gatekeepers for charitable giving, where does that leave us during National Estate Planning Awareness Week? Even low net worth people give to charity, and we know that bequests from smaller estates are still an important source of income for most charitable organizations. Gift planners still need the “legacy ask,” and they need supportive estate planners advising people of all wealth levels. 

At the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning in a few weeks, the Stelter Company will present the results of a new survey of advisors who hold the Accredited Estate Planner® (AEP®) designation. That study finds that many advisors are quite willing to collaborate with charitable planners, although not necessarily in the ways traditionally preferred by the charitable planners. The most fruitful areas for collaboration, according to advisors, are:
  • Showing clients they are willing to work as a team to formalize a planned gift (53% are interested in this)
  • Raising awareness of estate planning (51% are interested in this)
  • Explaining the tax advantages of planned gifts (47% are interested in this)of pla 
AEP®s surveyed in the Stelter study were less interested in receiving the following assistance from nonprofit planners:
  • Raising awareness of the importance of planned gifts (38% are interested in this)
  • Receiving technical information on planned gifts (33% are interested in this)
  • Ongoing assistance in analyzing gift transactions (31% are interested in this)
  • Assisting the advisor on language to be included in documents (31% are interested in this)
Paul Schervish would say that one thing charitable planners can bring to estate—and financial—planning is their skill in facilitating “discernment,” which he defines as a process of “conscientious self-reflection” that helps to balance material quantity of choice with spiritual quality of choice. Fundraisers seldom have the access to a donor’s financial condition that advisors have, so they should view this balancing act as a collaborative process. “People need to understand their financial capacity first, and then how their personal history motivates them to care for others,” Paul explains. “Discerned giving is bigger than ‘planned giving’ in a traditional sense. It isn’t about a particular vehicle or tax outcome—it’s about financial capability and moral compass.”

Do you have a story about successful collaboration between gift and estate planners? Or an idea about a way to participate in National Estate Planning Awareness Week? How are your donors or clients making creative use of their estate plans for charitable giving?


Why the $41 Trillion Wealth Transfer Is Still Valid: A Review of Challenges and Questions,” John J. Havens and Paul G. Schervish, The Journal of Gift Planning, 2003

Today's Wealth Holder and Tomorrow's Giving: The New Dynamics of Wealth and Philanthropy” Paul G. Schervish , The Journal of Gift Planning, 2005

A Smart Plan, A Better World, a consumer-oriented site on the basics of estate planning, including charitable planning from NAEPC and the Stelter Company.

Estate Planning Answers, a site from the NAEPC Education Foundation to provide consumer-oriented advice for planning that responds to life stages and events.

“Involving Advisors in Philanthropic Planning: Recommendations from Research Stephen P.Johnson, The Journal of Gift Planning, 2005

“Best Practices: Asking the ‘Philanthropic Question’" Charlie Collier, Phil Cubeta; King McGlaughon; Katelyn Quynn; Eileen Wilhem. The Journal of Gift Planning, 2005

“Wealth and the Family: Asking Essential Questions,” Charlie Collier, National Conference on Planned Giving, 2007

About Barbara Yeager

Barbara Yeager is the director of operations for PPP. She has worked for the organization since 1991. Her responsibilities include managing research projects for the national organization and for councils, managing education and networking programs for the National Conference on Philanthropic Planning, the Council Conversations series, and the Leadership Institute. She moderates groups in the PPP e-community and works with writers to develop original content for publication by PPP. Barbara has a master’s degree in library and information science and worked as a public librarian and as a technical writer and systems analyst before joining the PPP staff. In her community, she is a Girl Scout leader, a community gardener and volunteers as a costumer for community theater groups. 

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