Older individuals who have inherited wealth are often mistrusting of others, and usually for good reason. There are lots of people who would like to get their hands on the wealth.
Such an individual typically has a few close advisers or confidantes she trusts, and that’s it. The problem often is, the wealthy individual trusts the wrong people. The loyal adviser for many years may be a predator just waiting to get his hands on a fortune.
It’s difficult, at best, for a fundraiser to get through to such a wealthy individual.
When the wealth is considerable but not great, the situation may be quite different. The individual having the wealth may be quite open to dealing with a development officer. At least until he or she becomes ill or otherwise infirm. That’s when predators often move in, encircle the infirm individual, and cut him or her off from the outside world.
Which is why it’s often good to issue a gift annuity, even just a $10,000 gift annuity, to such an individual. The gift annuity gives the issuing organization a reason to be in periodic touch with the elderly person.
Charities should be willing to send the annuity check directly to the elderly individual’s bank but should avoid automatic direct deposit. Direct deposit plays into the hands of predators.
What is there to do if it appears that a good and loyal donor who has become elderly has become encircled and cut off by predators? A good first step is to talk with a good trust and estate lawyer local to where the donor lives … a lawyer who can be trusted and who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.
Depending on the circumstances and local law, it may be possible to get protective measures put in place. Such as by getting a guardianship established. Or by getting the state attorney general to take action.
There are lots of predators in retirement venues such as Florida. And in small towns and good-sized cities that aren’t retirement venues. The predators are cunning and know that charities typically don’t fight when they’re cut out of a will, even at the last moment.
Some charities have a policy of not litigating. Sad to say, but such a policy amounts to erecting a big sign that says, “Predators are welcome to exploit our alums and other donors.”
Don’t let the predators win.
For more information on this topic, read Part 1. You can also read “Avoiding the Dark Side: The Ethics of Gift Planning” from the February 2016 issue of Give & Take and “Dos and Don’ts of Detecting Diminished Capacity” from the January 2017 issue of Give & Take.
By Jon Tidd, Esq