2020 Shows the Importance of Including a Charity In Your Estate Plans

Hook Law News | Aug 10, 2020 | Hook Law Center

The coronavirus pandemic is severely impacting nonprofit organizations. In June, the Independent Sector released results of a nationwide survey of large and mid-size nonprofits. Among the results: 83% of those surveyed reported a decline in revenue and 71% said they had to reduce programs and services they offer. Furthermore, nearly all spring and summer fundraising events were abruptly suspended, along with much of the revenue they generate, as the country shutdown large gatherings. At the American Cancer Society, it meant that thousands of Relay-For-Life events around the country simply could not happen.

Like many organizations, we have adapted with a variety of virtual fundraising experiences that have allowed many communities to rally around the fight against cancer in new ways. However, these efforts have not come close to what we raised in past years. In fact, the American Cancer Society is projected to see a decline of $200 million dollars in revenue for 2020. Of course, cancer doesn’t stop, and patients continue to need services like our 1-800-ACS -2345, 24/7 help line.  It remains critical to continue funding new research that leads to breakthroughs and lives saved.

The Society has made difficult budget cuts to weather the storm, including a workforce reduction. While this year has been a financial challenge for the Society, we have been able to navigate through these turbulent times, in large part, because of the generosity and foresight of donors who, many years ago, worked with a professional advisor and included our organization in their wills or trusts. Because of the thoughtfulness of many individuals who left the American Cancer Society in their legacy giving, the American Cancer Society in 2019 received $150 million dollars in gifts through probate and trust. They could not have known just how critical their support would be. Their legacy is a lifeline of funding for our patient programs and lifesaving research during these uncertain times.

Including your favorite charity as a beneficiary in your will, trust or IRA is a simple way to ensure that organization will continue its mission in the future. Whether you leave a percentage of your estate, a specific amount to that charity, or include them as a beneficiary to your retirement account, it is a way that you can ensure that the organization will be funded in the future. For example, someone who passed away recently and set up a legacy gift to a charity in their documents many years ago, could not have foreseen what a tremendous impact their gift is making now for a charity struggling to raise money in 2020.

If you are interested in making a charitable gift in your will or trust, please talk to the great team at the Hook Law Center. They can help you with the bequest language and what would work best for you and your family.  I also encourage you to reach out to the charity of choice. They may have ways to designate your future donation to a specific program and make it in honor or memory of a loved one. In the case of the American Cancer Society, you can designate your gift to a patient program or to a specific cancer research. If you have any questions, please contact me at [email protected]).

Ask Kit Kat: Bird Colony a Success

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, I remember a column you wrote back in March of this year. How are the birds doing with their new nesting site at Fort Wool in Hampton, VA next to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT)?

Kit Kat: Well, I am happy to report that this endeavor has been a success! Before the move, terns, skimmers, and gulls, estimates range about 25,000 birds, would nest every spring on the southern island of the bridge. However, construction of an additional tunnel resulted in the search for a new nesting place, as the previous one would be used as a construction base for an expanded HRBT. The birds congregated here because they were free from predators and the waters provided a rich diet.

Fortunately, the plan devised by environmentalists and the Commonwealth of Virginia has been a success! They weren’t sure if it would work, but it did fantastically! There was a vacant island nearby—the former military installation known as Fort Wool which dates back to 1816. However, these particular birds had bypassed Fort Wool in the past, no matter how crowded the southern island had become. With birds likely to come in mid-May, planners were under pressure to act quickly. Other difficulties arose with the pandemic starting in mid-March. However, they persevered. It did not happen accidentally. Planners went to great lengths to make Fort Wool enticing. Because these birds prefer an open area where they can view predators, they cleared trees, weeds, and grass. Bait was put out to kill rats, which they suspect was one of the reasons birds avoided it in the past. Openings to the fort like entrances to bunkers and towers were sealed shut. Barges were added to increase square footage. They also spread fresh sand and gravel to make a pleasing base.  Finally, the stationed border collies at the southern island to scare away any wayward birds that were still attached to the old location.

Approximately 8 species are nesting there, 6 of which are listed as endangered. Unfortunately, Fort Wool is not a permanent solution. The site really is too small, even with the barges. Eventually, an artificial island created from dredging in the area may be the permanent solution. The birds have re-located before—from the Eastern Shore to the southern island around the HRBT, and now to Fort Wool. We can all be proud of Virginian environmentalists and the Virginia Department of Natural Resources! They took charge to save the largest seabird colony in the Commonwealth, and they succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. Ruth Boettcher, a coastal biologist, comments. “I didn’t think Fort Wool would work. It’s awesome that I was wrong.” (Joanne Kimberlin, “Tending the flock,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 26, 2020, pg. 1 & 6)

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