Bequest Risk

Assessing the risk – a key to planned giving success

When it comes down to precautions in planning giving (i.e. cover yourself letters, seeking your own counsel, etc…), there is one good rule of thumb:

The bigger the gift, the bigger the stakes, the more ethical and legal precautions you take!!

What spawned this post?  Check out this charitable bequest nightmare story:

http://news.yahoo.com/bequest-feed-panama-children-spawns-legal-fight-153820831.html

The point is this: as a potential bequest or other planned gift unfolds, you as a fundraiser have to make a decision how much fire power (i.e. legal help and other outside experts) you need.  At certain dollar amounts, let’s say $100k range, you might want to review the gift with a consultant. Get to the $1 million range, you might want paid legal counsel to be involved. It could also start with hostile family members.  It could be an unusual arrangement.

You will have to judge for yourself when a gift requires more protective action.  The linked story is an extreme example of how badly a good intent can go (the only solution there might have been  for the donor to create and fund his foundation while he was alive and in a sound mental/physical state).

In any case, as a fundraiser involved with donors and their estate plans, you need to develop a workable gauge.  If you bring it all out for every gift, your costs and/or efforts will be out of control. On the other hand, a few thousand dollars of expert guidance might save your institution millions of dollars later on.