Ask Kim advises local family left out of will

Page 2 Advice
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Dear Kim,

My sister in-law and her husband are quite well-off.  They inherited their money from her husband’s parents.  They lived a very average life prior to getting mom and dad’s money.  Now, they enjoy things the average person only gets to dream about.  They have no children and I was just asked to be an executor of their estate.  During this discussion, my sister-in-law told me they are giving all their money to a local humane society.  She also went on the say that if anyone contests their wishes, they will receive only $1 from the estate.  I never expected to inherit anything from them.  I’m older and will probably pass before they do.  Why would they choose to give their money away instead of helping members of their own family not struggle? 



Dear Anonymous,

Lots of people make the decision to give their money to charity for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes they themselves have been impacted by the charity and want to give back.  Some want to make a difference for others.  And by others, that doesn’t include their family.  I always think of the hotel heiress who left millions to her dog, leaving her children out of her will.  A judge decided that was silly and over-ruled her wishes.

Seriously though, most people give to causes that share or affirm their important values.  A study was done to see “why” people donate to charity.  The top five reasons that people give to charity ranked as follows:  Altruism – people find it important to help others, Trust – they trust their money will make a difference, Social – they feel their donation matters to someone they know and care about, Egoism – they want to look good to others, and finally Taxes – the tax breaks they receive can be motivating.

Now, why they would leave their family out of the will is something only they can answer.  Maybe they aren’t close.  Perhaps there’s a rift of some sort.  They clearly don’t feel their family should have the benefit they themselves received.  As a family first sort of person, this would not be my approach, but to each his own.

I read the following in Forbes magazine and thought it is worth sharing.  A dollar given directly to a person who needs it will be spent far more efficiently than a dollar put through the sieve of a benevolent bureaucracy in the hope that it trickles down somewhere.  That’s good advice for anyone wanting to make charitable donations.  Always do your research before giving away your money.  Some charities are notorious for spending your money at the top instead of truly supporting their mission. 

Have a question?  Ask Kim!

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