A number of years ago, Vance Packard wrote a best selling book called “The Hidden Persuaders.” The book explored at length the reasons (usually subliminal) people buy certain products including, among other things, life insurance.
In the book, Packard quotes from a presentation by Edward Weiss entitled “Hidden Attitudes Toward Life Insurance.” Weiss was reporting on an in-depth study made by a number of psychologists assigned to study the question: “Why do people buy life insurance?”
One of the strongest appeals prompting a person to buy life insurance, the study found, is that it offers to the buyer, “The prospect of immortality through the perpetuation of his or her influence. It is not the prospect of physical death that is inconceivable – rather it is the prospect of obliteration.” People apparently cannot tolerate the thought of no longer being present – obliteration.
Although Weiss’s observations pertain to the motivation for the purchase of life insurance, they have equal application for those who desire to perpetuate their influence through the use of charitable bequests or endowments. This is a method to which people increasingly turn to satisfy this “fierce desire to achieve immortality,” and to maintain one’s influence after death. This should not be interpreted as an indictment, but merely a natural human desire. It is rather nice to recognize that successful people want to leave behind something significant other than their progeny.
Certainly, paying large amounts in estate taxes does not satisfy one’s yearning for immortality. After all, have you ever heard of anyone being honored and acclaimed for the amount he or she paid in the form of estate taxes? The establishment of one’s own Private Family Foundations is one way of subsiding this urge for immortality.
We are all familiar with the large foundations set up by the Rockefellers, the Fords, the Carnegies, the Duponts and the Kennedys. Not many of us are in that league, however. So, what are the options available to the rest of us? For one thing, to set up one’s own private foundation not only calls for the amassing of a vast amount of wealth, but it can be a most costly proposition, both to set up and to administer on an ongoing basis. In addition, whereas donations made directly to qualified charities may generate income tax deductions of up to 50% of adjusted gross income in the first year, contributions to a private foundation permit deductions only up to 30% of adjusted gross income. On top of that, private foundations are subject to excise taxes on certain investments, plus a whole host of restrictions for the primary benefactor and family. A Private Family Foundations has some serious drawbacks. However, there exists an even better way of achieving these same objectives, without the costs and restrictions.
The Public / Private Solution
Although one may find a number of alternatives to the Private Family Foundations, perhaps the simplest and most cost effective way is to tie-in with a public community foundation. In this manner, you can to a large extent have your own “private foundation” under the larger community foundation umbrella.
The Tax Act of 1969 made the regulations of Private Family Foundations so burdensome that some 50,000 of them closed down. Many realigned themselves with a public community foundation, and not just because of the 50% versus 30% deductibility advantage. There are other advantages as well. For example, any unused deductions involving a gift to a community foundation may be carried forward for five years. Because it is considered a “non-public” charity, a gift to a Private Family Foundations may be carried forward and subject to the 30% limitation and there is a risk that not all the deduction may be claimed.
Under a “Donor Advised Fund” option available in most public community foundations, one can actually achieve greater benefits than with a private foundation, with significantly greater cost effectiveness. Through a local community foundation, for example, you may create such an account in your own or your family’s name, thus enjoying all the emotional and psychological benefits of a Private Family Foundations. To satisfy IRS requirements, you cannot control the Donor Advised Fund or its investments. You may make some recommendations as to disbursements, however, that the community foundation will usually honor.
After your death, other family members may continue to advise with regard to the disbursements. The community foundation provides the administration for such an account on an ongoing basis. While there may be no such thing as true immortality, setting up a Donor Advised Fund option through a community foundation could be the next best thing.
Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, it cannot be guaranteed. Federal tax laws are complex and subject to change. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. Neither Feliciano Financial Group, nor Lion Street Financial, LLC, offer tax or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, you should consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice.