The Benefit of Bequests
Through flexible estate planning, donors can provide for their families while also helping Johns Hopkins.
Date: May 20, 2011
Jeremiah Barondess ’49 can’t pinpoint the time when he first thought about estate planning. “The turning point most often is when people come to the realization that they’re not immortal,” he reflects. “Then the issue becomes how to distribute what you’re going to leave.”
For Barondess, the priority was ensuring that his estate would provide adequately for his family upon his death. Beyond that, he wanted to create a bequest that would have some ongoing benefit. “My bequest is fairly modest. But it really is possible, no matter how small your estate is, for there to be some ongoing good derived,” he says. “For me, the way to do that is through an institution that presumably has an indefinite life expectancy and is involved in doing good.” Johns Hopkins School of Medicine met his criteria.
Barondess has always held Johns Hopkins in high regard. After earning his medical degree and completing his early residency training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital some six decades ago, he stayed connected to the institution, serving for 14 years on Johns Hopkins’ Board of Trustees and chairing the School of Medicine’s Advisory Council from its founding in 1978 until 1992. He has contributed to various programs and departments, established an endowed scholarship fund, and continues to be a key leadership volunteer, championing support for Johns Hopkins among his classmates and colleagues.
“I believe the way you are a physician is shaped to a very considerable degree by the character of your medical school experience and your house staff training,” says Barondess, who announced his bequest to Hopkins on the occasion of his 50th reunion. “That implicit shaping is a gift you get, and I think it’s not unreasonable to say if you give anything to the school in the way of a bequest, it’s in recognition of that gift.”
Lawrence C. Norford, a senior gift planning advisor in the Johns Hopkins Office of Gift Planning, has worked with many alumni like Barondess. “Everyone needs a thoughtfully and skillfully prepared estate plan, and it’s not a ‘once and done’ proposition,” Norford says. “You can always change your plan as your interests or priorities change.” Revisiting estate plans every five or 10 years is wise, he explains, because personal or family circumstances change, as do estate tax laws.
Estate gifts can vary beyond the typical bequest to include gifts of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or life insurance policies in which the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is named as the beneficiary. “Donors are often pleasantly surprised to see the flexibility of estate planning and how they can provide for their families and still contribute significantly to Johns Hopkins,” Norford says.
Bequests can also be targeted to specific purposes, such as the Margaret Ellen Nielsen Fellowship, established in 2000 by Terry Taylor ’60, and his wife Julia Frey Taylor, Nurs ’60. Their granddaughter Margaret, known as Meg, was born in 1990 with Down syndrome. She died at the age of 11 months, leaving behind a grieving family who wanted somehow to help others affected by the genetic disorder.
“Meg really enriched our lives and made us develop more compassion,” says Julia Taylor, who met her husband when they were both students at Hopkins. “After Meg’s death, we reconnected with Dr. [Victor] McKusick ’46, who had been one of Terry’s professors, and asked him how we could help.”
The Taylors traveled to Hopkins to learn more about the work of the renowned geneticist and how increased funding might expedite new discoveries in understanding and possibly preventing Down syndrome. “He told us he had really bright young people coming from Europe and other places, but no money for them the first year they’re here,” Terry Taylor recalls. Through contributions over the past several years, as well as through provisions in their estate, the Taylors have funded a fellowship for first-year trainees studying in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. The fellowship is named in memory of their granddaughter and given in recognition of the late Victor McKusick.
The Taylors worked closely with Johns Hopkins staff on the details and timing of their bequest. “I’m glad Hopkins takes the long view,” Taylor says. “Times are tough right now, and money’s tight, but this is a no-brainer. You make a bequest in your will and it doesn’t come out of your pocket now. You’re able to provide for your family and still give where there’s an affiliation.”
“I went to the best medical school in the country, and my four years at Hopkins were probably the greatest four years of my life,” Taylor says. “Not only did I get my degree but I met the love of my life. I want to give something back.”
To learn more about the ways you can make a gift or bequest to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, please contact the Development and Alumni Relations Office at 410-516-0776 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit giving.jhu.edu/giftplanning.