However, planning for your death — an inevitable
event for all of us — can be one of the simplest ways to
control the disposition of your assets after you pass. A
good estate plan can also work to reduce taxes due at the time of
death, while also allowing you to make meaningful charitable
Employ a Professional
While in many states you can handwrite a Will, or even type out
your Will on an iPad; to avoid any ambiguity as to your final
wishes, and to prevent litigation, it is recommended that you seek
professional assistance in creating your estate plan. Further, you
should find a practitioner who is licensed to practice in the state
in which you currently reside.
There has been a growing trend towards using internet services
and "do-it-yourself" kits that provide general forms and
templates for Wills and other legal documents. These forms can be
dangerous as they are a one-size fits all approach to estate
planning – a matter which requires personalization.
Commonly Litigated Issues as to Charitable
Litigation has arisen in the interpretation, construction, and
implementation of charitable gifts in the following scenarios:
A poorly drafted Will can result in
litigation if there is question as to whether a bequest or trust is
indeed charitable. In general, a charitable trust is a trust
"created to benefit a specific charity, specific charities, or
the general public rather than a private individual or
entity." BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 1547 (8th ed. 2004).
Courts will apply the doctrine of
cy pres – and modify charitable bequests – in
situations where it becomes impossible, impracticable or illegal to
carry out the testator's particular charitable purpose.
Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 399 (1959). Thus, it is
important to always revisit your Will and update it accordingly,
confirming that charities are still in existence and engaging in
the same type of charitable work for which you gave the gift.
Consider making your bequests
condition free. Consider what would happen if your condition could
not be fulfilled. Remember that anyone with standing can contest
your Will, i.e., a beneficiary who feels slighted by the terms of
the Will, a potential beneficiary, an ex-spouse, stepchildren,
children, or siblings.
Discuss your plans with the charity
in advance, especially if you intend to leave tangible objects,
such as artwork or antiques. You want to work with the charity to
ensure that it can make use of and accept your gift.
By enlisting a professional and avoiding some of these common
pitfalls, you can make a gift to charity that has a lasting
This article was written by
Melissa Osorio Dibble, Esquire, an Attorney at Archer
& Greiner, P.C., and a member of Samaritan's Planned Giving
Committee, a volunteer group of the region's leading financial
professionals, lending their expertise to guide our charitable
estate planning efforts.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Trustees are often granted the power to distribute trust property "in the Trustee’s discretion" for a beneficiary’s "general well-being," "best interests," "comfort," or, most commonly, "health, education, maintenance and support."
"Whereas victims rarely know how to use the law in their favor, the aggressor instinctively deploys the necessary maneuvers. Abusive behavior can be used to find fault in a divorce action. But how can one keep track of guilt by innuendo?"
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