Jeff Yost: Transforming families and communities with estate planning

One of the most powerful ways to impact your family’s future after you’re gone is through estate planning, particularly through passing on your assets to the next generation and beyond. Be they cash, retirement assets, stocks, land, or other tangible property, your gifts can create bountiful opportunities for the ones you love as they build their own legacies and those of future generations.

But what if you could impact not just your family but your neighborhood? Or your local school? Or your entire community?

For those with such aspirations, the scope of an estate gift can go well beyond family. In addition to ensuring loved ones and children receive the security they need, many Nebraskans are choosing to also include the causes dear to their heart when making their legacy plans. For some people, this means giving to a charitable organization tackling issues important to them. For many of us across the state, it means leaving something for the communities we cherish and the places and people that have done so much for us and our families.

Nebraska Community Foundation Board Member Kent Warneke and his wife, Susan, opted to put 60% of their estate into a charitable remainder trust upon their passing. The arrangement affords the Norfolk couple’s two children—Sarah and Alex—the opportunity to receive income from the principal for 15 years, giving Kent and Susan the peace of mind that their family is taken care of. To paraphrase Kent, when it comes to family versus charity, it’s not a choice. You can provide for everyone and everything you care about.

Chuck Hibberd, another NCF board member, recently updated estate plans to benefit the causes important to his heart. He and his wife, Janel, discovered the plans they had did not align with their values, so they began a deliberative process to make sure they did. The rural Lincoln couple decided to leave 20% of their estate to charity, set up as the Hibberd Charitable Fund, which will be managed by NCF. Fifty percent of the gift will help continue NCF’s mission, while the other half will support early childhood education and the Nebraska 4-H Foundation’s youth development efforts. They frequently communicated their thoughts with their children during the process, ensuring their family was taken care of before allotting the rest of their estate to those causes they care about.

Charitable gift planning allows people to provide for the future of their family and their community. Nebraska Community Foundation’s Five to Thrive campaign encourages Nebraskans to leave just 5% of their estate to local organizations benefiting their community, like NCF’s community-based affiliated funds which are building endowments to meet community needs long into the future. The 2021 Transfer of Wealth Study documented more than $100 billion in Nebraska wealth passing from one generation to another over the next 10 years. Over 50 years, the figure swells to $950 billion. If generous Nebraskans gave just 5% to local charitable causes, it would amount to more than $5 billion in the next decade—and $47.5 billion over the next half-century.

As we embark on a new year and nail down those resolutions for 2024, January marks an ideal time to reevaluate plans for the future. And if you’re one of the 66% of American adults without a will, this is a great moment to begin evaluating how you want to structure your estate so your family and community both benefit from your success.

Estate planning can be intimidating for many reasons but making those preparations now can provide peace of mind that your family and community will be taken care of in the future. Creating a gift in a will is also one of the easiest ways to make a charitable gift. Many Nebraskans have told us they were surprised with just how simple and convenient it was for them to make their planned gift.

The website www.NebraskaHometown.org has an abundance of resources on tax-wise charitable gift planning, including gift planning calculators, stories of donor impact and a free downloadable wills guide.

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