In recognition of #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back, Bill Meyer, an attorney based in Port Townsend whose practice focuses on estate planning, trusts and estate administration, talks about his passion for helping match people with a cause that’s meaningful to them. Meyer has helped individuals in the community plan gifts worth millions of dollars to local charities, including Seattle Children’s. This year, Meyer was awarded the Champion for Children’s Award from Seattle Children’s, an award which recognizes one professional advisor who has done an extraordinary job in helping Seattle Children’s as a volunteer, outreach partner and advocate of philanthropic planning.
When Meyer meets with clients to talk about documents like a Last Will and Testament, one might think the conversation could be rather sobering. But for Meyer, he looks at the conversation in a different light. He sits down with his clients outside of his stark white office walls (usually in their homes) and takes the time to learn about their life, their passions and the legacy they want to leave behind. All of his conversations have one thing in common, a question he loves to ask: “Do you have a charity or cause you wish to support in your plan?”
“It’s not a sad discussion at all,” said Meyer. “Estate planning is an extension of a person’s life. Many of my clients want to do in death what they have done in life – they want to give back. It’s a really rewarding part of my job – to help match people with a cause they want to support.”
According to Meyer, many individuals choose Seattle Children’s because they’ve had a direct connection with the hospital, but for some like Frances Harris, they include the hospital out of a generous desire to help families most in need. Harris wasn’t one of Meyer’s many clients, but her story is very similar to what he hears from his.
A dream of donating $1 million
Harris was born on July 9, 1913, in Edgewick, Wash. She was one of six siblings. She graduated from Bellingham High School in 1930 and after additional schooling worked several jobs – a substitute teacher, a bookkeeper, a clerk and a secretary to the Administrator of the Washington State Bar Association.
She never married, never had children, never owned a car or a house and was never in the public spotlight. She was, however, very outgoing, personable, independent and caring.
She lived life very intentionally and was a lifelong learner. According to her friends, she read copiously. She became a precise grammarian who would correct someone if they spoke ungrammatically. After retiring, Frances became a world traveler and an enthusiastic antique collector, further expanding her knowledge of people, places, culture and history.
Harris set two life goals: She wanted to be healthy enough to live to be 100 years old, and she wanted to save $1 million dollars so that she could donate it to charity. She achieved both of her goals. She surpassed her first goal and met her second by accumulating an estate in excess of $1 million. She bequeathed that estate to three charities. She wanted to make a difference for the most vulnerable populations. She wanted her legacy to reflect who she was in life, a caring and compassionate woman. One third of her estate supported Seattle Children’s, a generous gift that has helped ensure that sick and injured children receive the best care possible, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
Building a legacy
It doesn’t, however, take a million dollar gift to make a difference. Jessica Breitbarth, senior director of development, Trust Services and Legacy Planning, at Seattle Children’s, encourages everyone to have an estate planning document, no matter if a person plans to give to charity or not.
“Regardless of your age, you need to think about a couple of things – what do I need now, what do I need in the future, and what might I want to do to leave a legacy? Whether your legacy is for your family, for charity, or for both, you need a plan. We’re appreciative of people like Bill Meyer, who make planning personal,” she said.
Breitbarth adds, “We’re so honored when people choose to include Seattle Children’s in their legacy plans because they’re including the hospital with their closest friends and family. They’re saying to us, I want to include you in my inner circle, and I want to support the tremendous work you do for patients and families. For that, we’re eternally grateful.”
Learn more about Seattle Children’s Legacy Planning.