Around the holidays every year, we see an uptick in donations, volunteerism, and charitable giving. The season reminds us to look inward and find ways to help our communities. Part of my estate planning practice is to help my clients find ways to include charities into their legacy through a variety of options. Individuals can make gifts during their lives, sell property to charities at a bargain, or name charities as the beneficiary of life insurance or retirement accounts. If you are over 70 1/2, you can distribute IRA minimum required distributions directly to a charity without paying income tax. If you have real estate holdings that don't produce income or assets that have a high capital gain, there are a variety of other options where you give property to charity, but receive an annuity back for life or some other period of time or you give the property to charity for a period of time and then it reverts back to you or your heirs. Most all of these options have some tax advantage, but most importantly ultimately benefit causes that my clients are passionate about. If you would like more information about charitable giving or would like assistance in putting a plan into action, call me at (509) 557-7797.
Creative v. precise. Artistic v. objective. How often do we find passions or professions that utilize both sides of our brain? I'm lucky enough to have discovered how to get one side to support the other. I have two separate businesses, but they are related enough that what I learn from one directly makes me better at the other.
A little history first. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and public relations. During that time, I came across a cassette tape of stories told by my grandmother. She passed away during my elementary school years. Hearing her voice brought me right back to the hours spent snuggled up on the couch with her watching TV or reading a book. I transcribed those stories and turned them into a short book for my family. That sparked an idea in me that didn't seem to exist at the time, a career as a personal historian capturing stories, experiences, beliefs, and legacies to hand down to future generations (TimesFly, LLC).
Fast forward several years, my love of technical details and in depth analysis led me to law school for my JD and more law school for my LL.M. in Taxation. Tax law, you can't get much more left-brained than that. My focus has always been in estate planning, probate, business and tax law, especially the intersections of them all, where organization is key.
As an estate planning attorney, the goals and objectives shared with me by my clients spark my curiosity to know more detail about their history. The histories I've recorded have taught me just how deep family emotions can go and how long they can survive, sometimes resulting in unbelievable disputes after the death of a loved one. I have been a part of many such disputes as a probate attorney. My goal as both an attorney and personal historian is to assist my clients in ensuring that their legacy is passed on according to their wishes. A legacy isn't just accumulated wealth or assets, it's the values, beliefs, and sacrifices that that created them. Even if you don't have an impressive net worth, your life and history have a high value.
In this Thanksgiving month, I am thankful to be where I am, doing what I do, for the clients I do it for. Whether saving estate taxes or fond memories, one side keeps making the other side stronger.
Megan M. Lewis