Wisconsinites are known for their charity and generosity. For many people, that charity does not end with their death. Indeed, it is common practice for individuals to make gifts to their favorite religious, charitable, cultural, and educational organizations as part of their estate planning.
The Orlando Sentinel recently reported on an unusual case involving a large charitable gift from the estate of a deceased farmer who lived in Brodhead, Wisconsin. The decedent inherited a substantial amount of his property from his own parents shortly before his own death in February 2015. In fact, at the time of his death the decedent reportedly owned land and property worth as much as $40 million, according to The Sentinel.
Under the terms of the decedent’s will, his entire estate would go to a teenage boy living in the Ukraine. The decedent believed the boy to be his biological child from a prior relationship, but the will required confirmation via a paternity test before the child could receive his inheritance. The child’s mother refused to allow such a test, which delayed administration of the estate until the child reached the age of 18 and could consent to the test for himself.
As it turned out, the child was not the decedent’s son. According to the will, in the absence of a legal heir, the decedent’s estate instead went to the Florida State Parks Foundation. According to The Sentinel, the Foundation received $19 million. This is a big deal for the small nonprofit organization, which previously had an annual budget of just $75,000. With the estate’s money, the Foundation will now receive $400,000 per year in income alone.
The decedent apparently had no pre-existing relationship with the Florida State Parks Foundation. The organization’s director said the decedent’s identity was a “mystery” to him and that he did not even know what the decedent looked like. While it is not unusual for individuals to make charitable bequests without informing the recipient in advance, it is not necessarily the best course of action.
To the contrary, it is often advisable to consult with a charity in anticipation of an estate planning gift. Most larger organizations actually have a dedicated “planned giving” officer who can work with your estate planning attorney to ensure your gift is properly handled at the appropriate time.
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The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.
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