Planned Giving

The Power of Bequests: Making a Difference with the Stroke of a Pen

The July 2007 issue of this newsletter reported the almost $2 million bequest of the late Dr. Devananda Tandavan to Kauai's Iraivan Temple. "A gift like that is one of the reasons bequests have been the fastest growing source of charitable revenue in the United States over the past 40 years," says Phil Murphy, HHE's planned giving specialist.

He adds that those of lesser means than Dr. Tandavan can use the same charitable tool to make a commitment to a larger gift than they thought possible and in a way that does not affect their current finances.

"Bequests are powerful tools that make a big difference to good causes," Murphy points out. "Yet they keep the donor in complete control of his or her resources during life. That's why they're the most popular way of making an estate gift to charity." He cited a report by the Sharpe Group that said bequests accounted for $22.91 billion in gifts to U.S. charities in 2006 alone.

"Most of those gifts didn't come close to Dr. Tandavan's $2 million," he notes; "$5,000 and $10,000 bequests are far more common than the whopper bequests that make headlines. But they can be the largest single gift that an individual ever makes. Also, they're completely revocable. If someone's circumstances change, they're free to change their bequest."

"Most adults die without a written estate plan. We tend to put off writing our wills because we don’t want to face our mortality."

Given the flexibility of bequests, why do less than ten percent of US decedents leave a bequest to charity? "The main barrier is psychological," Murphy asserts. "Most adults die without a written estate plan. We tend to put off writing our wills because we don't want to face our mortality. But without something official in writing, charities you care about get nothing."

Those who do leave bequests to good causes see it as a way of giving their children a final message. "One donor with three children and six grandchildren told me that her charitable bequest was part of her children's inheritance," Murphy recalls. " 'It's my final reminder to them to care about others,' she told me. Charitable bequests, though perhaps a small part of your total estate, tell people what you stood for during life. That's part of their power."

For suggested bequest language or to learn more about setting up your own estate and life income plan to provide immediate tax and income benefits to you and your family, while also providing a future gift to the temple, please contact Shanmuganathaswami at 808-822-3012 ext. 244 or visit

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