As a professional fundraiser I often have the opportunity to talk to donors and volunteers about their values. As an endowment director I often encouraged donors and volunteers alike to ensure that their estate plans not only passed on value to their heirs, but to make sure they passed on their values as well.
I had a colleague whose great-great grandfather passed away at the turn of the last century. Since my friend wasn’t born until the 1950′s, he obviously had no opportunity to meet the man. But he had a deep respect for who /component/option,com_jcalpro/Itemid,28/extmode,cal/date,2107-09-01/”>low dose cialis cost he was. You see, his great-great grandfather had started a charity. I don’t remember what it was, but my friend clearly knew and took great pride in his family’s values as expressed by this patriarch.
He clearly stood a bit taller as he told me how, had his great-great grandfather left a trust fund, it might have been gone by the time he might have benefited from it. As it was, he now had something much more valuable. He had a way of knowing his great-great grandfather in a way that most of us do not have with relatives and generations we never met. He had a legacy of value.
In the Talmud, the written “oral Torah” or commentary and teachings of the ancient Rabbis, there is a story about a Rabbi who quizzes his student. He asks “If you have 500 shekels and you give away 50 shekels to charity, how many shekels do you have?” The students are unanimous in replying that you have 450 shekels, to which the Rabbi replies that they are all wrong. “If you have given 50 shekels to charity, you will always have those shekels, but you could always lose the other 450.”
I am thinking of both of those stories today as I sit with my siblings in my mom’s living room where we have just had a hospital bed installed. Mom has been battling lung cancer for almost a year-and-a-half now. When she came home from the hospital a couple of weeks ago we thought she would be with us for a few more months, or many weeks at worst. But life comes at you fast, and so apparently does the end. It now looks as if she will be with us for days rather than weeks.
While my sister wrote a eulogy many weeks ago, so mom could read it, I was not ready yet to talk about her life and her legacy. As we sit with her now, the values she instilled in us are becoming clear to me.
She does not have any money to pass on to her family or to charity, but my mother has already passed on a rich legacy of value to her children. I have no doubt that if she had the money to do so, she would have established a charitable fund that expresses some of her values. I also have no doubt that had she done so, that my siblings and I would be pleased to inherit less to allow for that expression of values.
I have often suggested that most children would be happy to inherit 3-5% less if it meant 10% of the estate going to establish a charitable fund. Depending on their financial situation, even larger numbers make sense. But even if there are three kids and each is bequeathed 3.33% less, that leaves a 10% bequest to charity, a true and tangible expression of values.
In future posts Iâ€™ll explore options for leaving that 10% and I might even share with you some of the values my mother has passed on to me, my brother, and my sister and our kids.