Home > Personal Finance > The Lesson We Can All Learn From the Librarian Who Left a Fortune to His Former Employer

Comments 0 Comments

A former University of New Hampshire librarian’s $4 million gift to the school has gotten a lot of notice recently because of the way the school chose to use the funds. All the attention serves as a nice reminder that estate planning is important, especially if you’re particular about the way you want your money used.

Robert Morin, who worked at the university’s Dimond Library for almost 50 years, gave his entire estate to the school when he died in 2015. Morin designated that $100,000 go to the library, but he did not specify how the remaining money be spent, according to a statement by UNH.

The school said earlier this month, according to numerous reports, that it plans to spend $2.5 million of the proceeds on a student career center, and another $1 million on a video scoreboard for the school’s football stadium. That final choice upset some folks, who aired their frustration on social media.

The opponents said using 10 times the amount dedicated to the library for a scoreboard goes against Morin’s interests, and particularly his austere lifestyle, which is what allowed him to save up such a large sum of money.

But if Morin had wanted his generous contribution used in a particular way, wouldn’t he have just dictated that in his will or trust, as he did with the amount designated to the library?

Most likely so, which got us thinking about just how much flexibility we all have in dictating our wishes when it comes to leaving money to family, friends and even organizations and charities.

Brad Wiewel, a Credit.com contributor and board-certified Texas estate planning attorney at The Wiewel Law Firm, said a person’s will or living trust can basically dictate anything “that’s not illegal, kind of to use a phrase, unholy.”

“You can put in there pretty much anything you want to,” Wiewel said. “This guy could give it to anything, like a campaign that is anti-smoking, but I don’t know that they would let him say, ‘I want to give this to encourage smoking. That might be against public policy.”

Same holds true for known terrorist groups, hate groups, and so on, Wiewel explained.

Some things you should keep in mind when determining who will receive proceeds from your estate and how much they will receive include:

Stating Specific Amounts

Be careful when stating specific dollar amounts in your will or trust, Wiewel said, especially when combining charities and family as beneficiaries. Your estate can lose value over time, so that $100,000 you want to leave to the Boy Scouts can be great when your estate is valued at $1 million, but if it drops to just $150,000, your family will be left with very little.

That’s why it’s a good idea when leaving part of your estate to a charity or other entity to use a percentage of the estate instead of a specific dollar amount. Along with that, Wiewel recommends a caveat that the amount is not to exceed a certain dollar amount.

That’s not only because stating a particular percentage could hurt other beneficiaries, but a charity, for example, could be required to do an audit of the estate to determine they received the full percentage dictated, which can become costly and time-consuming.

“It’s easier to say, ‘We don’t want to go through an audit, we’re going to give you $100,000 because this is the lesser of; here you go, have a good day,’ ” Wiewel said.

Name Charities as Beneficiaries Instead

Instead of mixing charities and family members in your will, consider making a charity a beneficiary of a retirement account instead. That way, the money will go to them tax-free, Wiewel explained, and, should you wish to change which charity receives your donation, you can simply change the beneficiary on your IRA or 401K account instead of having to rewrite your will.

As with most estate-planning issues, it’s a good idea to seek the counsel of a professional rather than attempting to do it yourself, particularly if you have substantial assets and/or multiple beneficiaries. And as you look at getting your estate in order, it’s also a good idea to ensure your loved ones don’t have to deal with identity thieves who’ve opened credit accounts in your name without your knowledge. You can keep track of these things by regularly checking your credit reports, which you can get for free every year at AnnualCreditReport.com, and by closely watching your credit scores, a drastic change in which can be the first sign that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: Edward Bock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team