Southwest Resident Harlow Pease, shown here with Waterfront Village volunteer Norma Joiner, has kicked off the organization’s planned giving campaign with a $20,000 bequest.


Bonnie Raitt immortalized this phrase in the title song from a movie of the same name over 20 years ago.

But today there is one topic very few want to discuss: thoughts and wishes on financial and estate planning, and other end-of-life options.

Those whose parents do not balk at the topic are fortunate indeed. Losing a parent is inevitably an emotional experience, usually compounded by dispersing many personal belongings. Parents who are willing to plan well often leave a “Demise File” that might include everything from insurance policies to funeral music and readings.

One of the more recent additions to wills and trusts is planned giving. Similar to the ways people parse out their funds and belongings to family members, planned giving provides financial gifts to charitable organizations. These are often the same groups that had enjoyed and relied on a giver’s annual generosity year after year, but also groups newly formed or new to the giver.

Many ways to give

Planned giving comprises more than half a dozen financial strategies, including a legacy gift at the time of death, a gift annuity and various types of trusts, many of which offer tax advantages.

Waterfront Village, one of 11 neighborhood DC Villages that provides services and programs to members, has launched its own planned giving program and has established a Legacy Society boosted by one of Waterfront Village’s early members, Harlow Pease, who has designated a bequest of $20,000.

“Harlow has been a valued member of Waterfront Village, and the Village has reciprocated in turn. We have been there for him, and he is rewarding us for our help and support,” stated Bob Craycraft, executive director of the Village.

Waterfront Village is just one example of a number of Southwest nonprofits that offers this program as an opportunity to its supporters to help ensure long-term support. The Village supports residents of both the Southwest and Navy Yard communities, allowing them to age as they choose and helping them remain in their own homes.

When to write a will

Estate planning is not just for “retired” people, although many think about it more as they age. Making plans brings peace of mind to the entire family. And planned giving integrates charitable giving with overall financial, tax and estate planning goals to maximize benefits.

An estate planning lawyer can help you choose the type of giving that is right for you and for your family. David Jonathon Taylor of Right Size Law Firm, who assists many of Waterfront Village’s members with their estates, says, “The importance of putting in place a comprehensive plan that protects you and your loved ones cannot be overstated. People may often plan for their deaths yet fail to consider what they may want if they decline physically or mentally. A good plan will consider these circumstances yet remain flexible enough for you to easily change it as your needs change. A good estate plan that is regularly updated will lessen the stress on you, your friends and your family while you are alive, and once you are gone.”

Preparing the Big Book

The Washington Post Business Section ran a piece in May entitled, “Let’s talk about the Big Book: Organizing your financial life is the most important thing you can do for loved ones.”

Journalist Thomas Heath wrote, “The wealthy have family offices to track these things. For the rest of us, there’s the Big Book. It includes life’s important documents, including driver’s licenses and insurance policies, investments and real estate deeds in addition to photocopies of passports, credit cards and wills.”

Heath lists the following items to go into a Big Book:

∙      Important documents, including copies of passports, work IDs, marriage license, birth certificates and Social Security cards

∙      Real estate and automobile paperwork, including insurance, title and registration and warranties

∙      Bank accounts and investments, including stocks, mutual funds and retirement account numbers and custodial information

∙      Digital sign-ons and passwords

∙      Other insurance policies and estate-planning documents

∙      List of health-care providers, medications and emergency contacts

∙      Credit cards and loans

∙      Memberships

∙      Other assets

Heath even uses an example of who might inherit the football season tickets.

Although arrangements for planned giving would be part of a will or trust, the Big Book could include a commentary about why a group was chosen for bequests. A person might also designate a line for the obituary that in lieu of flowers, he or she would like to be remembered with donations to a particular organization.

For more information about Waterfront Village, please see Waterfront Village’s website –, email or call 202-656-1834.

BY Sharon Flynn, Consultant

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