Giving Insights: A Legacy that Matters – The Value of Estate Gifts

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The Chicago Community Trust was built by philanthropists who wanted their legacy to be a stronger Chicago region, and that commitment continues today. Donors who have named The Chicago Community Trust as a beneficiary in their wills, trusts and retirement accounts have enabled us to support the community and address its most pressing challenges.

Estate gifts played a significant role in our response to the COVID-19 crisis, and in mobilizing to launch the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund in partnership with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The Trust was able to contribute $500,000 to the Fund due in large part to the support donors like Charlotte Lindon and Harriet and Cyrus H. McCormick, Jr. have provided to us from their estates. The past several months have highlighted the importance of estate gifts in responding nimbly to a crisis, and in supporting the Chicago region long into the future.

If you are a current donor to the Trust and haven’t considered an estate gift, here are some steps for getting started and understanding your options.

Talk to Us!

An estate gift is one of the most impactful tools in your charitable toolkit. If you are a donor with a donor advised fund at the Trust, your first point of contact should always be your philanthropic advisor. Our team is made up of philanthropy professionals who are committed to helping you achieve your charitable goals. If you aren’t sure who your philanthropic advisor is, you can find out by checking your donor advised fund statement.

If you don’t currently have a donor advised fund with the Trust, we are here to help! Contact Tim Bresnahan, Senior Director of Gift Planning, at 312-565-2832 or, or Don Gottesman, Director of Gift Planning, at 312-616-6141 or  We are happy to start the conversation with you at any time.

Understand Your Options

An estate gift to the Trust can be used for a wide variety of fund types and purposes. Understanding your options as a donor will help you make the best choice. Here are some questions to consider when determining how to structure your estate gift:

  • Do you want to respond to the most pressing needs of the Chicago region? If so, an unrestricted gift to the Trust is your best bet. We use unrestricted dollars to help revitalize neighborhoods, empower youth, support economic opportunities, and much more. A gift can be any size, and with a gift of $250,000 or more, a donor can name an endowment fund that will make grants in the name of the donor in perpetuity.
  • Do you want to support specific issues, like arts, education, entrepreneurship, or the environment? If so, an estate gift that creates a “field-of-interest fund” at the Trust will meet your goals. Your fund can be an endowment, meaning it lasts forever, or it can be structured to be spent down over a period of time. And it can be customized to support the issues that you care about most.
  • Do you have specific organizations that you want to support after you are gone? We can create a “designated fund” in your name that makes annual grants to named organizations, either in perpetuity or for a period of time. Many donors choose this plan because it allows for their annual gifts made during life to continue after death.
  • Do you want to empower family or friends to be philanthropic through a donor advised fund (DAF)? A donor advised fund creates a charitable legacy that allows family or friends to recommend grants to charity. Your estate can fund an existing DAF with the Trust, or it can create a new DAF with advisors and successor advisors that you choose.
  • Do you want to do a little bit of everything? No problem. Your estate gift can be used to fund one or more of the options listed above. For example:
    • A portion of the gift is used to create a field-of-interest fund, in the name of the donor, that makes annual grants to organizations battling homelessness in Chicago. The Trust will pick the best organizations each year to receive those grants.
    • Part of the gift can be used to create a designated fund, in the name of the donor, that makes an annual grant to the donor’s college alma mater. Those grants will be made until the fund is exhausted.
    • The remainder will be added to the donor’s existing DAF at the Trust, and her three adult children will act as advisors to the fund with the ability to recommend grants to their favorite charities.

Name the Trust in Your Estate Plan

Now that you know what you want your estate gift to do, you will need to name The Chicago Community Trust in your estate documents. That process varies depending on the way you plan to fund your estate gift. The following options will help you better understand how to name us as the beneficiary of your estate:

  • Bequest through a will or trust
  • Beneficiary of a retirement account
  • Beneficiary of a life insurance plan
  • Private foundation termination
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts and other vehicles
  • Sample language and other information for your estate gift can be found here

Join the 1915 Society by Telling Us About Your Gift

The Chicago Community Trust’s 1915 Society honors and recognizes donors who have included the Trust in their estate plans. Members of the 1915 Society are invited to exclusive special events, informational seminars and the annual 1915 Society luncheon. At the 2019 luncheon, members gathered at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture to hear the Trust’s President and CEO Helene Gayle interviewed by Brandis Friedman, host and correspondent of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

Donors do not need to sign a pledge or other binding agreement to become a member of the 1915 Society. Donors simply need to complete and sign the Trust’s bequest intent form and mark their interest in joining the Society

Start the Conversation Today

If you know you want to create a charitable legacy, but you aren’t sure where to begin, call the Trust and start the conversation. The Gift Planning team of Tim Bresnahan and Don Gottesman are here to ensure your vision for the future is met.