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The Sociology of Giving Back in Inheritance Planning

On Tuesday we discussed a few ways that our New York estate planning lawyers incorporate charitable giving into strategies to reduce taxes during inheritance planning. Of course, for most local families who want to give some of their wealth away, the motivation is not just to save tax money for themselves or their heirs in the process. Instead, as an interesting new article discussing the matter in Financial Planning noted, there are many emotional connections behind giving back. A mix of empathy, gratitude, and the desire to make an impact for others are often behind philanthropic efforts included in New York estate plans.

One sociologist suggests that empathy is at the root of most charitable giving–the ability to actually experience the struggles faced by others. Many donors providing support to certain charitable causes see much of themselves, their children, parents, or other family members in those that they are helping. The ability to care for others as an extension of ourselves is one of the most valued human abilities, and many of our clients share that attribute, wanting to incorporate it as part of their long-term planning.

The time that many are conducting estate planning is usually a time when they are winding down their efforts to collect more wealth. As a result it is a natural opportunity to consider other objectives, goals, and wishes. A sociologist familiar with this time in life explained how residents “then face the question of how to live next and impart to their children a moral biography. Most will want to give back because giving is a natural source of happiness.” When reflecting on how far one has come in life, many consider that they themselves were helped along the way. Giving aid to others (financial and otherwise) is a way of returning the help one personally received at a time when it was needed most.

Another consideration is the effect that particularly large inheritances might have on offspring. Researchers have found that many wealthy individuals fear the effect of a large inheritance on their children. Increased charitable giving seems like an appropriate action in those situations.

At the end of the day, providing help to others is perhaps the single most important way that any of us can shape the world around us. At the same time it is a way of meeting our own needs as well. The Greek word from which we derive philanthropy, “philia,” actually means “mutual nourishment.”

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Adding Charitable Giving As Part of Your Estate Plan

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) as an Estate Planning Tool

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