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Questions About Leaving a Legacy
What is a charitable bequest?

A charitable bequest is a stipulation in a donor's will that states that a certain sum of money or percentage of one's estate be given to a charitable organization, in this case, the District of Columbia School of Law Foundation.

Why do people make charitable bequests?

There are various reasons why people give.  A donor may have a personal connection to the School of Law or might, quite simply, believe in its mission.  Many people make charitable bequests because they want to give back to the community.

Can an "average” person leave a legacy?

Absolutely!  Bequests are the simplest forms of planned giving, and are a way to perpetuate your commitment to the School of Law.  With a bequest you can make a gift that you may not have been able to afford in your lifetime.  Most people leave an estate when they die, even though they may not have a great deal of wealth.  It is a wonderful way to make a lasting difference.

If I were to make a charitable bequest, are there benefits?

There are some tax benefits (for example, heirs will not be taxed on a bequest) as well as the benefit of knowing that you are helping the Foundation to support the School of Law's mission after your lifetime.  Many donors feel unsure about making a gift of current assets because those monies may be needed.  A bequest ensures that the donor's assets remain intact for as long as he or she needs them and that the Foundation will receive a gift that will be used to support the School of Law.

In general, how would I go about making a bequest?

You simply ask your attorney to include language in your will expressing your wish to do so.  When making a bequest, you have the ability to stipulate that a charitable organization receive a percentage of the estate, a fixed amount of money or the residuary, which is what is left of an estate after all other debts, taxes, expenses and bequests have been fulfilled.  Your attorney or tax adviser will be able to instruct you on which bequest would best serve you and your heirs.

Can funds from a retirement plan or IRA be part of a bequest?
Yes.  The number of estates containing IRAs and retirement plan assets is growing.  They are an attractive source of charitable bequests, because the Foundation can receive the funds with no tax liability and therefore can apply 100% of those assets to help the School of Law.  By contrast, family members who inherit IRAs and retirement plan assets must pay income tax on them.  By the time taxes are paid, some family members may receive as little as 15% of the retirement account.

Is it important to designate specific instructions in my will?

To ensure that your wishes are met, you should clearly state your intentions in your will.  Without a will, one loses control over financial and other assets after death.  Property and finances are settled according to the state’s decisions, despite family’s wishes.
Is it possible to make a gift for a specific purpose?

Yes!  The Foundation would be delighted to apply your gift to a specific purpose such as scholarship, fellowship or professorship.  We would be happy to discuss those special wishes with you.
Should I tell the Foundation about my estate plans?

Absolutely!  It is incredibly helpful to the Foundation to be able to plan for the future support of School of Law programs.  If you have included the Foundation in your estate plans, please let us know. We would love to be able to thank you during your lifetime.

How can I learn more?

Individuals interested in making a bequest or another planned gift may contact Jaye Lopez Van Soest, CFRE at or (202) 274-5401.

The information in this document does not constitute legal or financial advice.  We encourage you to discuss these options with your advisors before deciding on the best choice for you.
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