Alumnae Offer Estate and Charitable Planning Advice to Women

USF double alumna, Janet Fogarty BA ’85, JD ’91, was joined by fellow alumna and philanthropist, Eva Monroe BA ’72, to discuss Women & Your Financial Future at the University of San Francisco’s Women in Leadership & Philanthropy Symposium. Fogarty, an attorney and founder of Janet Fogarty & Associates whose practice includes estate planning and real estate, provided useful advice to women about the importance of estate and tax planning. Monroe, a lifelong volunteer with a special interest in organizations that serve education, health, the environment, and the arts, shared her insights about her ties to USF and the impact that philanthropic-minded women can make through charitable legacy planning.

The pair offered five reasons to create or update your estate plan:

1. An Estate Plan Brings Peace of Mind
In her many years helping clients create estate plans or guiding them through the probate or trust distribution process, Fogarty advises having an updated will and trust as well as an advance healthcare directive and power of attorney to let family members know how you want your affairs handled if you become incapacitated and after your lifetime. A plan will bring peace of mind to you, your family, and the ones you appoint to help you. Fogarty says, “The best time to create or update your estate documents is when you are well. If you wait until after you are sick or unable to make decisions, it is too late.” Monroe adds, “The creation of our trust donation began with our own careful discussion about why and how we wanted to do this; a further education about how this could be accomplished at USF took place through conversations with USF gift officers—and finally, a visit with our attorneys about how to bring this all into fruition.”

2. Avoid Probate
Probate is a public court proceeding that can be expensive and take a lot of time, sometimes years. Fogarty advises clients to create a living trust if their assets are valued at more than the California estate threshold of $166,000, which determines when probate is required. Assets in a living trust avoid probate. You can also avoid probate by naming heirs or charities as designated beneficiaries of retirement plans, bank accounts, commercial annuities, or life insurance policies. Simply contact your plan administrator or account sponsor to make these designations.

3. Tax Benefits
Under current tax law, a person can gift or leave $11.6 million in assets to individuals tax-free. The government has mandated that the estate- and gift-tax exemption be reduced to $5 million in 2026, but many believe that the administration will reduce the amount sooner to pay for relief acts and services. Fogarty suggests tax planning so your heirs don't have to sell assets to pay taxes. Leaving a percentage of retirement-plan assets to charity can be a tax-smart strategy to avoid taxes and make a greater impact on a cause important to you. Fogarty showed that IRA assets left to heirs are subject to income tax and possibly estate tax, which can amount to more than 50% of the value going to pay federal and state taxes. However, if an IRA is left to a tax-exempt organization, all of the value goes to the charitable cause, scholarships, or program you designate.

4. Provide for Yourself and Loved Ones
Charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) are a way to reduce current income taxes and possibly estate taxes and provide income to you and/or loved ones. At the end of the term of the trust, the remainder goes to charity. If you use appreciated real estate or securities, you can also avoid capital-gain tax. Fogarty added that a charitable gift annuity is similar to a CRT, but the minimum amount to set up a gift annuity is only $10,000. A gift annuity could be a good option for philanthropically minded individuals who don’t have the large amount of assets that justify the cost to set up a CRT but still want to create a life-income gift. Fogarty reminded guests to consult with their tax accountant or attorney.

5. Create Your Legacy
You can name USF for a percent or specific dollar amount of your estate. It is important to inform the charity of your gift so they can help you to designate how it will be used. Monroe describes the gift that she and her husband, Mike Monroe, have designated in their trust, “This gift would guarantee a future of USF programs and scholarships for students in need who share our belief in a solid Jesuit education and way of life that would include opportunities to enhance the greater good. Our charitable legacy will continue our life’s devotion to USF long after we are gone.”

Learn More About Women in Leadership & Philanthropy at USF

To learn more about the topics discussed above and charitable gift planning at USF, call the Office of Gift Planning at 415-422-4163 or e-mail us at giftplanning@usfca.edu.