To Give or Not To Give

There are 3 basic options for estate planning. Two require the assistance of an attorney. One only requires a checkbook and a pen

  1. Prepare a Last Will and Testament and leave your property outright to your heirs in a will.
  1. Prepare an Irrevocable Trust: your funds go into the Trust and are distributed over time by your duly appointed Trustee in accordance with the terms of the Trust.
  1. Gift all your money away during your lifetime.

Charles Feeney was a billionaire philanthropist. He chose Option 3. Feeney made his money operating duty-free shops in airports all over the world and had a knack for investing in successful tech start ups like Facebook in which he was an early investor.

By 1982 he was worth over $8 billion and during that year he started giving that money away through a foundation he started called Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of private foundations located around the world.

You’ve probably never heard of Mr. Feeney because he deliberately remained under the radar.  In January of this year, a profile of him in the New York Times, James Bond of Philanthropy’ Gives Away the Last of His Fortune said this about him:

“His name does not appear in gilded letters, chiseled marble or other forms of writing anywhere on the 1,000 buildings across five continents that $2.7 billion of his money paid for. For years, Atlantic’s support came with a requirement that the beneficiaries not publicize its involvement.

None of the major American philanthropists have given away a greater proportion of their wealth, and starting in 1982, Mr. Feeney did most of this in complete secrecy, leading Forbes magazine to call him the “James Bond of philanthropy.”

Five years ago at the age of 85, his foundation still had $1.7 billion left and the way he had it figured, time was running out. The Times article noted that Feeney achieved his goal by giving the last of the money, $7 million grant to Cornell University, to support students doing community service work.

For those of you who choose to give all your money away, God bless you. For the rest of you who choose to leave your good fortune to your heirs, we can assist you in your estate planning.  Please give us a call at 212-693-3737.