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Leave behind more than a memory

"You can't take it with you.We've been asked to remind readers as much, as September is Leave a Legacy of Western Washington month. The motto: Make a will and make a difference.You don't have to be a millionaire to make a difference - everybody has something to give, Winslow estate-planning attorney and LALWW volunteer Kathleen Wright told us this week. You don't have to be Bill Gates or Paul Allen. The Leave a Legacy campaign started four years ago in the Midwest, with a goal of steering some of the proceeds from personal estates toward non-profit organizations and charities.Since then, chapters have sprung up around the country, including the Puget Sound area. And with fully 60 percent of Americans being carted off to Forest Lawn without leaving a will behind, there's quite an untapped resource there for doing some good in the community.To be sure, there are already plenty of examples of bequests and endowments now at work around Bainbridge Island, generosity that lives on long after the donors have passed into the next world. For example, if you enjoy the productions at Bainbridge Performing Arts, you can thank the generous donations of the Hodges family, which helped construction of that theater and support its ongoing operations.Wright cites a $1 million endowment that will support local educational and environmental causes, and yet another donor who left 10,000 shares of Microsoft stock - a veritable printing press for currency, at least until the Department of Justice gets done - to support the work of the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.While to some, the Leave a Legacy campaign may seem ideal for people who don't like their children, tax advantages suggest that it's as good a way to spite the feds as the kids. Just this week, Wright set up a will for an island client with an estate of reasonable size - $800,000 - most of which will go to the woman's heirs. Because of federal estate tax laws, though, much of the kitty would have been sucked up by the the federal budget vacuum. Instead, with a charitable cause designated as beneficiary for the taxable portion of the estate, $125,000 or more will someday go to Bainbridge Island's favorite charity. Uncle Sam won't get a dime.Do you want to support Helpline, or do you want to build another B-1 bomber? asks Wright, who refers to it as social reallocation of your tax dollars.Certainly, no one's expecting you to leave your whole estate to charity. But gifts of any amount - in cash, stock, land or other assets - to a favorite non-profit organization can make a huge difference in many lives, long after yours is over.Just think of the karma.More information on the Leave a Legacy campaign is available online at www.leavelegacy.org. Community groups interested in a free presentation on legacy planning can contact Wright at 842-7326. Why leave a legacy?We suppose some people will leave the world a better place just by not being in it anymore. But here's a way to hedge your bets. "

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