As pioneers in Washington's gay-rights movement, former Capitol Hill residents Harvey Muggy and Donald Lothian worked tirelessly during their lifetimes to inspire political activity among the state's gay community.
When he ran for the state House of Representatives in 1986, Muggy was the first openly gay person in Seattle to seek political office. He lost the election, yet he continued to work in politics and recruited members of the gay community to serve at various political levels.
Lothian owned two Seattle gay bars - the Off Ramp in Eastlake and the Crescent on Capitol Hill - and worked behind the scenes for gay rights. Saddly, Muggy died in 1992 and Lothian died in December 2004. But the couple has ensured that a cause that was close to their hearts will continue long after their deaths, thanks to a $1.3 million bequest from their estate left to Lifelong AIDS Alliance in Seattle.
Muggy and Lothian, like the millions of other individual donors who name charities in their wills, left a legacy. They did so for themselves, for the cause they are passionate about and for the community where the charity operates.
"The largest gift in the organization's history comes at a time when government funding for HIV/AIDS care and prevention is at risk," said Kelly Cash, chairman of the board of directors for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. "Planned giving is a selfless act, as organizations rarely learn about donor wishes until after the donor has passed. Harvey and Donald were visionaries who will inspire future generations to provide the same selfless leadership."
With today's unstable economic conditions, charities now as much as ever are counting on their donors to help them meet the needs of their community. While non-profits continue to rely on the generous annual gifts they receive, they're also trying to encourage donors to remember them in their wills.
It is not difficult to do, yet few people do it. Only 40 percent of adults even have wills. And of those who do, only six percent name a charity in their wills.
By naming a charity in a will or making other such "planned gifts," individuals can continue to help organizations that they feel are doing important work in their communities. Many donors consider it a way to keep their spirits alive, supporting the causes that they care deeply about.
In addition, donors may receive considerable tax benefits when they name a charity in their will or set up a trust that gives the non-profit organization a portion of their assets when they die.
Any money that goes to the charity is not subject to an estate tax. And the donor can choose where the money goes, instead of giving it to the government.
"In leaving a gift to my favorite charities as part of my estate plan, I hope to ensure that the circle of help I've received and given during my lifetime will continue unbroken in perpetuity," said Anne S. Knapp, director of planned giving for the American Heart Association in Seattle. Knapp co-chairs Leave a Legacy of Western Washington, a coalition of 550 non-profit organizations that have joined to educate the public about planned giving through estate planning.
Continuing the circle of help is what Seattle resident Mourine Staman had in mind when she named Swedish Medical Center as one of the beneficiaries in her will.
As a volunteer and later employee of Swedish Medical Center, Staman knew the service side of the hospital. Then, a day after calling in too sick to work, Staman discovered what it was like to be a patient at the hospital. Staman required emergency surgery to have her gall bladder removed by her boss, Dr. Allan Lobb, Swedish's CEO for many years.
Over the years since then, Staman, 91, has seen more of the hospital from the patient's side, as she and her husband of 65 years, Lilburn Staman, sought treatment for various conditions.
"I tried them out several times, just to see if they were keeping up with things," she joked.
In addition to naming the organization in her will, Staman has also established two charitable gift annuities to benefit the Capitol Hill hospital, including one in memory of Lilburn, who passed away in 2003.
"Swedish is honored to be the beneficiary of Mrs. Staman's generous planned gifts," said Rick Downey, senior director of Planned Giving for the Swedish Medical Center Foundation. "Her legacy of caring will help improve care for our patients, and we're pleased to be a part of making that possible,"
Leave A Legacy of Western Washington is a campaign endorsed by 550 nonprofit organizations and funded by area businesses and foundations to promote charitable giving through an estate plan. For more information on how to begin your estate planning or to schedule a speaker on the topic, go to www.leavelegacy.org www. leavelegacy.org or call 1-800-682-0090.