Planned Giving: Wills and Gifts

It is no secret that our Masonic Home Endowment Fund has been one of the most critical issues on our Grand Lodge agenda in recent memory. Many ideas have been implemented to insure the growth of this sacred trust, but inflation and empty beds at the facility have led to the use of principal from the account to fund the Home's budget for the last few years. Although it appears that we are finally catching up to the original mandate of utilizing only the interest income from the account to fuel the budget, we must continue our endeavors to grow the principal. If we do not commit ourselves to this, then we will be forced to continue tapping that principal which will ultimately lead to the demise of the Home as we know it. Wills and Gifts is one way to adhere to that commitment.

Wills and Gifts is perhaps the least utilized of the many fundraising avenues for our Endowment Fund. We have a virtually untapped market of 50,000 Brothers in our jurisdiction that need to be solicited concerning this program. Estate planning affects all of us at some point in our lifetime; therefore this should not be a subject that is avoided.

The need for a last will and testament is more important than ever with the growth of wealth in our society. Inheritances and the taxes associated with them has become an everyday subject and dominate many aspects of broadcast and print media. Therefore, more and more people are familiarizing themselves with the options available to manage their estates. Additionally, the controversial Teri Schiavo right to life case last year brought the personal aspect of a person's last wishes to the forefront of discussion in many families throughout our country. These issues open the door to talking about the Wills and Gifts program.

The basic idea of the program is to inform the brethren of our jurisdiction that their Grand Lodge has identified attorneys (who happen to be Brother Masons) that are available to help them with their estate planning, provided that they include a gift to the Home in those plans. These Brethren have been provided with a package of exactly how the Home qualifies as a tax deductible charity. Whether it is a simple will, a bequest of real property or a more complex situation, the use of an attorney is an absolute necessity. Additionally, whether it is a Brother's first time planning an estate or simply revising and updating a previous document, the necessity of legal advice is still paramount. There are many tax benefits associated with these gifts and an attorney will help the Brother to best utilize them. Needless to say, the Brother will also have peace of mind regarding the integrity of the attorney that they are working with. It is hoped that our Grand Master and District Deputies will chose Brothers who are best qualified to chair the Zone and District levels of this program. It will be the duty of these chairmen to insure the success of the same.

The chairmen should first contact the Grand Lodge Office to obtain a list of the participating attorneys in their districts. This, however, does not exclude them from identifying other Masonic attorneys in their areas who are willing to participate in the program. Once they have compiled their list, they should contact these attorneys to insure the following;

  1. Are they are still willing to participate in the program?
  2. To what extent are they willing to render services (i.e. simple wills, trusts, bequeaths, etc.)
  3. Providing that a gift is made to the Home, will they render their services pro bono, at a discounted rate or at normal fees?

Once these parameters are identified then the chairman can travel the district and talk about the program, hopefully convincing some of the brethren to take advantage of this service. He can also intelligently recommend the appropriate attorney based on individual cases.

As mentioned, the time is right to bring this committee's purpose to the forefront of our presentations at the DDGM's visits or at another scheduled time. The interest should be there and we must tap into that interest to make this program a success. If the right brother is chosen for the job, then he can surely raise awareness on the subject while raising funds for our Home at the same time.

For questions or comments pertaining to Planned Giving, contact the Program State Chairman.

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