Thursday, December 10, 2015

Community Services Committee: A Simple Tool for Your Legacy of Justice

By Leslie Schultz-Kin and Kathleen Koch

A military veteran suffering from PTSD faces the loss of his home to foreclosure.

A domestic violence victim and her children desperately seek legal protection from their abuser.

An elderly widower is victimized by financial exploitation.

A grandmother rescues her three grandchildren from neglect and needs to establish formal child custody.

A foster care child has no voice in court and needs representation.

When Tampa's most vulnerable residents seek legal help, they turn to Bay Area Legal Services (BALS), our community's legal aid organization entrusted to advance the causes of the underprivileged. Each year, BALS assists more than 25,000 individuals and families with civil legal matters. The difference BALS makes is significant ― and often lifesaving ― because the legal problems frequently affect the most basic of client needs.

Much as you plan for the future financial security of your family, you can help ensure that BALS serves our community for future generations. Legacy giving options can be surprisingly easy to arrange. The simplest is naming BALS as a beneficiary of your life insurance policy.  Beneficiaries are designated by specific dollar amount or percentage portion of the premium proceeds (so the process can be additive ― no need to drop family members as beneficiaries).  This revocable gift can be coordinated through your employer or financial services company and typically involves a phone call or minutes on a computer. Moreover, gifts by beneficiary designation usually avoid probate.

Of course, there are many options for leaving a legacy, such as naming BALS in your will. This gift may be exempt from the federal estate tax, and the assets remain in your control through your lifetime. Other alternatives include a life income gift that allows you to give an asset while retaining the use of it for life. This gift may provide an immediate partial tax deduction.

Donors who include BALS in estate planning (and notify BALS) become members of the Legacy for Justice Society. The society keeps members up to date on BALS and recognizes donors in annual events.

Remember: It is not necessary to be a certain age, extremely wealthy, or at a particular point in your career to help ensure continued access to justice in our community. You simply need a plan.

Become a champion for justice. For more information, contact Rose Brempong, development director at BALS, at (813) 232-1343 or Leave your legacy ― and be the difference between justice for some and justice for all.