Creating a Lasting Legacy in Your Estate Plans

December 21, 2015

The John Wayne Cancer Institute is thriving, thanks to the planning and generosity of our donors. The compilation of estate gifts from our friends and supporters allows us to remain at the forefront of cancer research, helping turn discoveries into lifesaving treatments.

Wills and trusts are one of the most popular vehicles for charitable giving in the estate giving category. Laws surrounding wills and trusts can change, however. Personal circumstances can change, too. It’s a good idea to periodically review your estate plans with an attorney. Experts at the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation are happy to answer your questions as well.

Here are some commonly asked questions about charitable giving through wills and trusts.

Q: What is a will?
A: A will is a written legal instrument by which a person can direct how to manage and distribute his or her estate after death. It is revocable and subject to amendment during one’s lifetime. With a will in place, your estate will go through a court-supervised process, known as probate, and will become a matter of public record. Through a will, guardians for minor children can be named, and you may also make specific bequests of cash, jewelry and other property. You do not need to transfer any property to another entity in order to create your will.

Q: What is a living trust?
A: A living trust is established during a person’s lifetime and provides lifetime and after-death asset and property management. A living trust is often used as a substitute for a will and can provide many of the same benefits. To serve as a full substitute, all assets must be put into the trust during your lifetime, and all newly-acquired property must be put into the trust as it is acquired. Many people find trusts attractive as they tend to avoid the time delays, publicity and inconvenience of a probate-driven distribution of your estate.

Q: Why should I plan ahead with a will or trust?
A: There is only one place where you are reasonably assured of having the last word: in your estate plans. People work hard to acquire and keep property during their lifetimes. However, a surprisingly large number of people die without a will or trust in place, thus leaving the security of their family and loved ones to chance and a disproportionate amount of their estate to the government.

Q: Do I need a will if I have a trust?
A: If you do not have a will, any property that isn’t transferred to your living trust or other probate-avoidance vehicle (such as joint tenancy) will go to your closest relatives in an order determined by state law. This may result in the distribution of your estate in a way that you would not have chosen. In many respects, a living trust and a will accomplish similar objectives. However, one size does not fit all. Your estate plan should be prepared in a way that best meets the needs of you and your loved ones.

Q: How can I remember a charity in my will or trust?
A: You can make a gift to the Institute by designating a percentage of your estate, a dollar amount or a specific asset, such as property, to benefit the Institute. Please contact us to learn more.

Become a Guardian of the Future
Notifying us of your plans will allow us to thank you for your thoughtfulness, help us plan strategically for the future and may inspire others to follow your philanthropic lead. You will also become a member of Guardians of the Future and enjoy full member benefits. If you or your advisors would like additional information, sample language or illustrations, please call Tanya Lopez at 310-582-7095, who would be pleased to provide information without any commitment.