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Money Matters
Wills & Estates

How to Decide Who Merits Your Money as You Ponder Your Legacy

Not long ago, Jeff Bezos took to Twitter to ask the world for charitable-giving ideas.

The Amazon.com founder sought a charitable strategy that looked at the long term and soon he was inundated with suggestions.

Of course, Bezos has plenty of money to give, but you don’t need to be a billionaire to reach a point in life when you start feeling the charitable urge. There comes a time when many of us want to do more than just accumulate money and property. You want to distribute the bounty. You want to enjoy what you worked to acquire, of course, but part of the change in attitude is looking to see how you can do more than just take care of yourself.

But who should your wealth – whether abundant or meager – go to? Should all of it be kept in the family when you die? Should it go to your church? A favorite charity? The college that educated you?

Ultimately, only each individual can answer that question. But there are steps that can help you prepare for making that decision. They include:

  • Be aware that circumstances change.

When you die, whatever you accumulated can end up in the hands of family, other beneficiaries, charities – or Uncle Sam. A lot of people I talk to think they have it all worked out and that the IRS is going to get nothing. But often, when I examine their documents and analyze the numbers, I discover that’s not true. It’s not always because they did a bad job. More than likely, it’s because tax laws changed since they did their calculations, or something about their personal situation changed.

  • Realize that fair doesn’t always mean equal.

People often divide an inheritance into equal shares. If there are three children, for example, then each gets one-third. Renn says people should sometimes reconsider the automatic urge to do that. For example, both children may be hard working, but one might be well off financially while the other is struggling to make ends meet. One sibling might be more adept at handling money, while the other will quickly blow any inheritance.

  • Understand that even small gifts can help

Many people think that leaving something to charity is for the very rich only. But Renn says anyone, regardless of net worth, can find something they care about and include that charity, organization or cause as part of their legacy. A financial professional might even be able to help you leverage your resources so that your gift accomplishes more than you would have imagined.

We can contribute to the greater good with our time, our efforts and our money. In giving financially, we are, in effect, giving all three, since money represents the fruit of our time and effort. When we share our money, we share ourselves.”

Patrick Renn, author of Finding Your Money’s Greater Purpose, has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM for more than 35 years and holds a bachelor’s degree from in business administration from Villanova University and an MBA from Loyola College. Renn – who currently lives in Georgia – is the founder of Renn Wealth Management Group Inc. (www.patrickrenn.com), the former president of the Georgia Society of Certified Financial Planners and former president of the Georgia chapter of the International Association for Financial Planning. He is the past president of the Georgia Special Olympics, is the current chair of the Day 1 Endowment and has served on countless other charitable and endowment boards.