Estate planning: Prepare today for tomorrow

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Foundation offers resources to ACS members at no cost to assist in estate and will planning to ensure beneficiary intent. Members can sign up for an e-newsletter, ACS Foundation Quarterly, or request a confidential consultation with an ACS Foundation staff member.

Preparing for the future

The new year is often a time to reassess plans for the future. However, nearly 70 percent of Americans do not have up-to-date legal wills, according to an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, which means final asset distribution for those individuals may be determined by state law.* Proper will planning can ensure that individuals continue to provide for their loved ones and favorite charities in a way that aligns with their specific intentions.

To help in estate planning, the following list provides answers to some commonly asked questions:

  • What can I give away in my will? A will provides for the distribution of certain property owned in your individual name at the time of your death—cash, real estate, artwork, and heirlooms, for instance—and, generally, you may dispose of such property in any manner you choose. A will does not govern the transfer of certain types of assets, such as jointly held property or assets with beneficiary designations, such as retirement plan assets.
  • Why would I need to adjust my will? Chances are your personal and financial situation has changed over time. You should review and possibly revise your will if you move to another state, marry or remarry, divorce, or buy or sell a business.
  • How do I change my will? If you would like to make a simple change to your will, you can do so through a document called a codicil. An estate planning attorney can help you with this process.
  • Can I use my will to handle my insurance policy benefits? It is not recommended that you name your estate as the beneficiary of your life insurance benefits. If you do, you may expose the proceeds of the policy to additional taxes, estate administration expenses, and creditors.
  • Will my heirs have to pay an inheritance tax? An inheritance tax is a state tax that a beneficiary pays when he or she receives assets from an estate. Whether your heirs have to pay an inheritance tax depends on the state in which the real estate holder lives. Only six states currently collect inheritance taxes: Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
  • What happens to my estate if I don’t have a will? Without a will, your state’s laws—not you—determine how, when, and to whom your property is distributed.

Family-first philosophy

Through thoughtful gift planning, you can choose a method of giving that protects your family’s needs and offers greater tax savings. Here are a few ways you can put family needs first and still support the ACS Foundation:

  • A gift in your will. You may find the flexibility of naming the ACS Foundation in your will or living trust appealing because you can change your mind at any time. By leaving a percentage of your estate to the ACS Foundation, gifts to family members and other loved ones remain proportional no matter how your estate fluctuates over the years.
  • Retirement plan assets. Because retirement plan assets can be heavily taxed when left to family, it can be tax-savvy to leave these assets to charity through beneficiary designations.
  • Life insurance. Life insurance is a simple way to make a big impact. You can leave all or a portion of your life insurance policy to the ACS Foundation.
  • Charitable gift annuity. Charitable gift annuities are a strong gift option and can provide income for life to you and your family members.

ACS Foundation mission

The ACS Foundation’s mission is to obtain financial support for the charitable and educational programs of the College. Member dues only fund approximately 23 percent of the College’s annual budget. It is because of donors’ generosity that the ACS is able to provide funding for annual scholarship and research fellowship awards, patient education outreach, Operation Giving Back, advocacy for the profession, and more.

When the first planned gift donor to the College, Earl H. Mayne, MD, FACS, established a charitable trust for ACS education programs, he showed great foresight in his intent for young men and women to achieve their own dreams of becoming a surgeon despite having economic challenges, as he did when he was a young man. Dr. Mayne’s legacy lives on through his estate gift and honors the opportunities that the ACS provided to him throughout his surgical career. The ACS Foundation’s planned giving society, the Mayne Heritage Society, welcomes Fellows leaving a planned gift to the College and provides special recognition for their generosity.

For more information to help you with estate planning questions, visit plannedgiving.facs.org or call Shane Hollett, ACS Foundation Executive Director, at 312-202-5506, or Sarah Klein, Director, Donor Relations and Communications, ACS Foundation, at 312-202-5384.

Acknowledgement

The information provided in this article is courtesy of the Stelter Company and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor.


 

*Stanford Social Innovation Review. Philanthropy’s missing trillions. Available at: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/philanthropys_missing_trillions. Accessed November 18, 2017.

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