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Salvation Army focuses on planned giving.

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In addition to the money its local corps raise through outright gifts, the Salvation Army in the Carolinas has stepped up efforts to secure deferred gifts from donors through wills, trusts and other planned-giving strategies.

The Charlotte-based North and South Carolina Division, the third-largest in the organization’s 13-state Southeast territory, has provided planned-giving services for more than 20 years, says Ron Aricco, the division’s senior director of planned giving.

Those services mainly have consisted of providing information about planned giving to individuals considering gifts to benefit the Salvation Army.

While each local Salvation Army corps provides local social services, the Charlotte divisional office employs four planned-giving professionals to work with donors planning gifts to local corps.

Aricco launched a new service to provide free estate-planning services to any individuals, not only those considering gifts to the Salvation Army.

Those services, including seminars, a correspondence course, brochures and one-on-one consulting, represent “institutional advertising” for the Salvation Army, Aricco says.

The strategy is to “find ways we can bring the Salvation Army to the forefront of individuals’ minds, so that they would think of us when they have a charitable intent,” he says, emphasizing that the Salvation Army does not provide legal or tax advice as part of its estate-planning services, and does not use them to solicit gifts.

“One of things we’re very careful about at our seminars is to make it as non-commercial as possible,” he says. “It is not a fundraiser.”

Total endowments for the Carolinas division, which has raised more than $80 million in planned gifts not yet received, total more than $7 million.

The division in the past four years has sponsored roughly 50 seminars, typically attended by about 25 people, mainly seniors.

The seminars examine basic elements of estate planning, and offer suggestions about how to select lawyers, tax-preparers and financial advisers.

If an individual needs basic estate-planning documents such as a power of attorney or living will, for example, a lawyer who practices family law likely could handle the matter, Aricco says.

But if an individual has a more complicated estate that might involve complex trusts, he says, it would be more appropriate to hire a tax attorney, whose fee likely would be higher because the work involves more specialized expertise.

The correspondence course consists of five lesson plans the Salvation Army mails to individuals over five weeks, plus an organizer to help them sort out financial data for their families.

The Salvation Army provides a “Legacy of Love” brochure that outlines steps an individual can take to design an estate plan, describes different ways in which funds can be distributed, and includes common estate-planning documents.

With the American Society of Charter Life Underwriters estimating that 60 percent Americans who need a will don’t have one, he says, “estate planning is something many people put off until too late.”

And while numerous strategies are available that can reduce taxation, probate and administration costs, he says, “procrastination results in estates paying far greater costs than they really need to and leaving less to heirs.”

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