Jeff Yost: Take control this August, make a will

Every day I hear amazing stories of community members pulling together to create fantastic outcomes in the places they love. Behind many of these stories are people who had the generosity and foresight to consider their communities when deciding how to create their legacy. I think of Noral Wait, whose estate gift to Seward has capitalized an endowment for youth engagement. Or individuals like Rudy Elis, whose gifts to northeast Nebraska empower young Nebraskans to pursue careers that maximize their talents.

Less than half of American adults have a will, according to Gallup. That’s unfortunate, because estate planning is one of the most impactful ways to benefit our families and communities after we’re gone. Another gift planning survey conducted by found that 34% of people aged 35–
54 have never discussed estate planning with anyone. That means, in the event of an untimely passing, family are left to guess the wishes of their loved one, or worse, fight over them. Having a will in place is the best way to ensure wishes are met and loved ones are taken care of.

What many don’t realize is that they actually do have a will. Most states, including Nebraska, have statutes directing how your estate will be distributed if you die without a will. The reality is these laws most likely do not reflect what you would want. By creating your will, you take control of your legacy.

August is Make-a-Will Month and the perfect reminder to either finally get a plan in place, or revisit estate plans to ensure they still represent your wishes.

With a will, you decide how to use your estate to ensure your family’s security and hometown’s future. Many Nebraskans are beginning to treat their communities as another member of their family, recognizing the essential role the places we call home have in improving quality of life – in creating the margin of excellence that makes our hometowns places we love, not just places we live. More than ever, Nebraskans are realizing we must care for our communities the way they’ve cared for us.

Over the next 10 years in Nebraska, more than $100 billion will transfer from one generation to the next. Charitable gift planning is one of the simplest, most impactful ways to ensure a portion of the multi-billion-dollar transfer of wealth remains in your hometown or the community you love. Nebraska Community Foundation suggests leaving 5% of one’s assets to local charitable causes. If everyone left just 5%, it would equate to $5 billion statewide in the next decade. These charitable resources could be used to further community and economic development, better local quality-of-life and improve our state for the next generation who call it home.

Writing a will may seem intimidating, but most people report the process is easier than anticipated. Meeting with an attorney or professional advisor is always recommended, however, there are also free online tools to help you get started. For instance, has a free, easy-to-use will planning guide to take you through the process. Visit the website, scroll down to the “Transfer of Wealth Toolkit,” and click on “WORKBOOK: Planning Your Legacy” to access the free guide. Nebraska Community Foundation staff are also always happy to discuss tax-wise charitable gift planning strategies and the ways our fellow Nebraskans are leaving a legacy.

Whether you need to start the conversation, make it official or revisit your existing will, I encourage you to join me and other community-minded Nebraskans in devising a legacy that benefits you, your family and the place you love. We can’t control everything, but we can control what we leave to the next generation.

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