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Lessons From the Cinema

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Giving to Charity

Next week I am going on a short vacation.  The first few days of my time away from the office will be spent in Whitefish as I tag along with my wife, Rhonda.  She will be there along with her colleagues at Special Olympics Montana, and the many volunteers and athletes, as they take in the Special Olympics Winter Games.  I spent some time there last year observing the athletes and was overwhelmed by seeing firsthand how excited they were to participate and compete, and how genuinely happy they were to be there.  What a positive, uplifting experience!

Shortly after my return to the office, I'll be blessed with the opportunity to work on an estate plan with a local professional and his wife.  What is so exciting and special about this is their desire to leave their entire sizable estate to charity and charitable purposes.  Their legacy will touch the lives of many others for years to come.

Thinking about all of this, I can't help but recall the classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," one of the greatest films ever made and which I saw once again this past holiday season.  You will all easily recall Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, the compassionate but down on his luck businessman.   Through the film, George turns bitter, suicidal and abusive to his family, until he is shown by a guiding angel what life would have been if he never existed.   Unlike the Scrooge-like Mr. Potter, who sees money only as a means to self-prosperity, George comes to understand and appreciate that money can be a means to create happiness for others.   By doing just that, George is toasted as the "richest man in town."

My point in all of this is that by sharing of yourself – – donating money, whatever it might be that you can afford, and by giving some of your time and expertise to charity and charitable purposes, you enrich your own life and the lives of others by creating a happier, healthier and safer world.  Now that IS wonderful!

Jon


Monday, June 2, 2014

Put Your Plan in Place and Share it with Family

If you watch movies, you will likely remember the film, "Gran Torino" which Clint Eastwood directed and played the main character.  Eastwood‘s character’s name was Walt, a Korean War veteran and retired autoworker.  As the movie unfolds, we learn that Walt is still grieving the death of his wife and feels that his neighborhood is being overrun by immigrants.  His grumpiness controls his actions, such as confronting gang members in his neighborhood.  He is also upset with his family for rarely coming to see him and when they do it is only to convince him that he needs to move into a nursing home.  Walt believes that his family is trying to get their hands on his house and his prized Gran Torino.  Over the course of the movie, Walt develops a friendship with the Hmong family that lives next door.  Through this relationship he comes to grips with the loss of his wife and his own outlook on life, and reaches a decision as to those persons who are most deserving of his modest estate.  Upon Walt’s death, guess who gets his house, his car and his beloved yellow Labrador?  They all end up where he thinks it will do the most good (and, no, it’s not his family).

The lesson behind all this is to remind you to put your plan in place, whether it is a will or a trust-based plan.  Like, Walt, it should reflect and meet your goals, concerns and other circumstances that are unique to you.  Obviously, immediate family members are the natural choice for you to include in your plan.  However, like Walt, you ultimately control that decision. 

Whatever your plan is, take the next step—communicate it to and discuss it with your family. This not only puts family members in a position to smoothly handle your estate upon your death, but in cases where your plan provides, for instance, for unequal distributions or one child is otherwise treated differently than another, it serves to minimize or eliminate hard feelings over expectations of inheritance and opens up the line of communication between family.  

Jon


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