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Transfer of wealth: Following the money

Transfer of wealth: Following the money

“The greatest wealth transfer in modern history has begun,” according to a mid-2021 report in the Wall Street Journal. And, with tax reform’s big bite into estate values off the table, at least for now, many of your older clients may be thinking seriously about their legacies.


And these legacies will be significant. As of March 31, 2021, according to data collected by the Federal Reserve, Americans in their 70s and older had a total net worth reaching almost $35 trillion. By 2042, an estimated $70 trillion will change hands, including an estimated $9 trillion flowing to charities, according to research conducted by Cerulli Associates. 


As you advise an older client, an important part of the conversation will be to determine the best charitable giving vehicles to achieve your client’s community goals, particularly evaluating the potential role of a donor-advised fund or private foundation. Increasingly, your clients are learning about their options in mainstream media and likely have a greater level of awareness about charitable giving options than ever before, especially in the wake of the recent twists and turns concerning potential tax reform. 


Here are key points to keep handy for those conversations (as you pick up the phone to call the FM Area Foundation team!):


  • A donor-advised fund at the FM Area Foundation costs nothing to set up, and ongoing fees are minimal. 
  • A donor-advised fund can be created quickly–within a week or even days. A private foundation, by contrast, requires establishing a legal entity through state and IRS filings.
  • Donating hard-to-value assets to a donor-advised fund delivers better tax benefits (deduction of fair market value) than a gift of the same assets to a private foundation (deduction of cost basis).
  • A client can deduct a greater portion of AGI (e.g., cash deductible up to 60% of AGI) with a gift to a donor-advised fund than with a gift to a private foundation (e.g., cash deductible up to 30% of AGI).
  • Ongoing operations of a donor-advised fund through the FM Area Foundation are very easy, with no tax filings required.
  • Sometimes, both a private foundation and a donor-advised fund are useful tools to meet a client’s charitable giving goals. The team at the FM Area Foundation can help you develop a structure for your client that maximizes the benefits of each vehicle within an overall philanthropy strategy.

Next, consider encouraging your clients to make charitable giving part of “living large” in their golden years, especially in light of an emerging trend that some retirees are spending their money instead of giving it away.


Finally, remind your clients that the best time to set up their philanthropic plans really is right now. By being proactive, your client has nothing to lose and everything to gain in ensuring that their charitable wishes are carried out. To that end, the FM Area Foundation regularly works with advisors helping clients who wish to establish “shell funds” to receive bequests after the clients pass away. A shell fund allows a client to describe charitable intentions, including naming advisors and suggesting nonprofits to receive fund distributions, to guide the heirs through the client’s charitable legacy. Your client can name the fund, and even provide that the FM Area Foundation’s board of directors work with advisors to make grants and evaluate impact. A shell fund agreement can be modified anytime before your client’s death. 



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You have the power to make a positive impact in two ways. You can donate to one of our 500 existing funds, or you can contact us to create a charitable fund that matches your values. Whichever route you choose, we are humbled by your trust and grateful for your kindness and generosity.

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