For The Register-Herald
Editor’s Note: This article was provided by David Ziegler of Ziegler and Ziegler, Attorneys at Law, located in Hinton. David currently serves on the Board of the Hinton Area Foundation and has provided this article in support of “Wills Week,” an initiative of Leave A Legacy of West Virginia. Local members include Beckley Area Foundation, Community Foundation of the Virginias, Concord University, Hinton Area Foundation, New River Community & Technical College, Tamarack Foundation, and United Way of Southern WV.
Have you made a will?
Just about everybody needs a will. The probate process in West Virginia is relatively simple, but if you don’t have a will, the person administering your estate will have to post a fiduciary bond. The premiums for these bonds have increased so much that it is typically less expensive to have a will drafted by an attorney than it is to pay the bond premium. And most wills specify that the executor does not have to post bond.
A well-drafted will identifies your heirs, provides for contingencies if heirs predecease you, specifies what properties go to which heirs, includes a residuary clause that states who takes all the rest of your property not specifically given, and appoints an executor and alternate executor. It is especially important to set forth provisions for spouses who may be infirm, and children or grandchildren who may be underage.
Certainly it is understandable that a person writing a will would want to provide for a spouse and children. But if you and your spouse are secure, or if you are single, or if your children are financially secure, do you want to consider leaving part or all of your estate to charity? John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, each almost single-handedly, improved the quality of life in the United States because of their charitable contributions.
Closer to home the Benedum Foundation has helped a lot of West Virginians and West Virginia charities. Right here in Hinton several people have made substantial charitable bequests in their wills that have established scholarships, benefited the public library and supported the humane society.
The bequests do not have to be substantial. If 10 financially secure people each left 10 percent of their estates to benefit say, the humane society, that would provide a solid financial basis for that organization. Would a 10 percent reduction in your estate seriously impair your heirs? In most cases, it would hardly be noticed, and imagine how much good we could collectively do!
A particularly beneficial form of gift is to leave leftover pension money to a charity. If you have an IRA, a 401-k or a Keogh Plan, and if you do not exhaust those resources during your lifetime, your heirs will probably have to pay income tax (and possibly estate tax as well) on those funds. However, if you specify in your will that you want those pension funds to go to a charity, then there will be no income tax on those funds.
Community foundations exist largely, to marshal charitable contributions, pool and invest that money, and use the income for charitable purposes. The local community foundations in Hinton, Beckley, Lewisburg, Bluefield and Summersville are each non-profit charitable organizations that benefit all of southern West Virginia. They are worthy vehicles to consider if you chose to leave part or all of your estate for charitable purposes.
For more information about the Hinton Area Foundation, call 304-466-5332, visit our website, befriend us on Facebook, or write to P.O. Box 217, Hinton, WV 25951.