What Is Your Legacy?

By Lindsey Rossow-Rood and Henry Grix

It's that time of year again when many of us are rushing to make our year-end donations to our favorite charities. By sending in a check or making an online donation, you're letting the organization know that you care about its mission, and want to help ensure that its good work continues throughout the year.

Now, what if you wanted to be sure that the causes that you care about are supported well beyond your lifetime? You may be thinking, "It's time to stop reading this article now as I know the terms "planned gift", "estate planning", or "legacy gift" are going to be mentioned. And honestly, I don't have an estate to worry about much less give to charity, so this doesn't apply to me." Well, before you stop reading consider the following:

-Do you have a savings and/or checking account?

-Do you own a home, vacation property, or other real estate?

-Do you own stocks, bonds, or other financial assets?

-Do you have a life insurance policy?

-Do you have retirement assets such as an IRA, pension, 401(k) plan, or 403(b) plan?

You can be assured that if you are 18 years of age or older, estate planning is not only relevant to you, but essential. Estate planning is not something that you can "opt out" of as Michigan law creates an estate plan for you if you do not have a written plan in place. LGBT individuals, couples, and their families have particular incentive to plan their estates deliberately. Without enforceable, written plans in place, the personal and financial affairs of LGBT people are subject to legal "default" rules that were not designed with their needs in mind. The legal default rules are based upon marital or biological ties and do not recognize relationships that LGBT individuals may develop with unrelated loved ones and friends. Estate planning remains important even for LGBT people whose closest relationships are with their biological families because an estate plan guides and assists those who step into your shoes in the event of lifetime disability or death.

Estate planning is important not only to protect yourself during your lifetime but also to leave your legacy after your death. You may wish to leave a legacy through gifts to loved ones, but you may wish to provide for causes that matter to you. You don't need to be Bill Gates to leave a charitable legacy. Consider naming one or more charities as beneficiaries of all or a portion of your retirement plan, whether 10 percent, 50 percent or a specific dollar amount. In the alternative, consider gifts that may provide income to a loved one for life, with a remainder to charity. Your gift, no matter its size, can have a permanent impact upon our community.

For more than 28 years, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has helped individuals, couples, and families, meet their charitable and financial goals. Making a planned gift can be as simple as a beneficiary designation, while others can be more complex, depending on your unique financial, personal, and business situation. If you are considering making a planned gift, the staff at the Community Foundation can work with you and your professional advisors to identify the best giving opportunities for you. Whether you are interested in establishing a named endowment fund to support your favorite organization, would like to contribute to the endowment of one of our existing partner agencies, are interested in leaving a gift to The HOPE Fund of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, or would like to explore whether or not a certain giving vehicle might be right for you (such as a Charitable Gift Annuity or Charitable Remainder Trust), consider the Community Foundation as your partner in philanthropy. For more information please visit http://cfsem.org/hope-fund or contact Lindsey Rossow-Rood at the Community Foundation at 313.961.6675 or lrossow@cfsem.org.

What is the HOPE Fund of the Community Foundation?

For more than 28 years the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has helped community members meet their charitable and financial goals by providing tools and resources that make giving easier, flexible, and effective.

One way that the Community Foundation has partnered with the local LGBT non-profit community is by establishing The HOPE Fund, which was launched in 1994 as a grantmaking and technical assistance program focused on strengthening organizations and projects which serve the LGBT community in southeast Michigan. Since its inception more than $1.7 million in grants have been made to 128 projects at 45 nonprofit agencies. We also helped the following organizations establish endowments for their long-term financial stability:

Affirmations Community Center

AIDS Partnership Michigan Inc.

Equality Michigan

Michigan AIDS Coalition

Ruth Ellis Center Inc.

Please help us support programs and services that serve the LGBT community in southeast Michigan by:

* Making an outright gift of any size to support The HOPE Fund, The HOPE Fund Endowment, or one of the endowment funds of our agency partners.

* Establishing a new named endowment fund.

* Making a planned gift through your will, revocable trust, or through a beneficiary designation of your pension, profit sharing, IRA, 401(k) or 403(B) plan.

* Learning more about gifts that benefit you, your loved ones and charities, such as charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts or charitable lead trusts.

To learn more about gift opportunities, the impact of The HOPE Fund on the community, or to make a gift online, please visit http://cfsem.org/hope-fund or contact Lindsey Rossow-Rood at the Community Foundation at 313-961-6675 or lrossow@cfsem.org.

Lindsey Rossow-Rood is a Philanthropic Services Officer at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and Henry Grix is an Estate Planning Attorney at the law firm of Dickinson Wright.
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