By JAMES BELL
Monday marked the start of Estate Planning Awareness week and the Heartland Community Foundation hopes area residents take advantage of free estate planning offered through the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.
Heartland Community Foundation executive director Sarah Meitner said having a plan in place can help those left behind fulfill final wishes.
"I see different numbers, different stats, but only like 30 percent of adults have a will or a state plan in place when they pass," Meitner said. "And all that that does by not having one is complicate it for your heirs."
And for those with children still in the home, she said having a plan in place can also ensure their needs are met.
"That is also, very important to plan ahead and to have had those discussions so that your loved ones aren't left wondering what to do," Meitner said.
Having a plan in place is also a benefit for the organizations a person supports and the community.
"You know, we at the community foundation, want to see our community be sustainable and prosperous for generations," Meitner said. "And that means talking to donors talking to people about having an estate plan. We hope that they might have a charitable component as part of that — to maybe look at their community and identify something that they're passionate about and leave a little bit to that organization or to that whatever that passionate cause is."
She said even the donation of a small part of an estate can have a large impact.
"Leave 95 percent to your heirs. Maybe take 5 percent to leave to whatever charitable cause or your church is most important to you," Meitner said. "But to think about that ahead of time, will certainly make it easier for your heirs and faster for them to tie everything up after you're gone."
And giving even a small amount can ensure money stays within the local economy.
"Here's a great example," Meitner said. "Say there's, you know, Mary and John donate every year to United Way. And just as an example, it could be any organization but, you know, the folks that United Way have come to depend on that $1,000 every year as part of their campaign. ...
"They know to expect it. Well, after Mary and John are gone and their kids have inherited all of the money. That money is no longer going to United Way or whatever other cause. And Mary and John probably would have wanted that $1,000 to continue going to United Way. So it's little things like that."
So in an effort to support more area residents with estate planning, Ellis County residents can sign up for free planning through the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.
"So what that does, it takes about four to five meetings you meet with him, you have your estate plan," Meitner said. "It's all free, you then take your estate plan and you have to then take it to an attorney to fully execute."
While the attorney fee will apply, the planning she said is done without charge.
"But the planning part, you know, four to five meetings of discussions each one's about one to two hours of time that part is included," Meitner said. "The only thing that Hansen asks is that you do have a charitable interest."
"So anybody who's interested in taking advantage of that, Hansen certainly wants to help get you scheduled," she said. "You can give me a call and I can help put you through the pipeline to help you see somebody and check that mark check that off your to-do list. ...
"There's still three months or two and a half months left of the year. You can be working on it and head into the new year feeling like you're making some progress, which is, you know, really cool."