Longtime Friend, Trusted Advisor and Foundation Supporter
When Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation convened for the first meeting of its Planned Giving Advisory Council on Feb. 16, 2001, attorney Gerard (Jerry) O’Flaherty was at the table. Years later, he still is.
Volunteering his professional assistance in estate planning is just one aspect of Jerry’s longtime support for the Foundation and its accomplishments. “My relationship with Gundersen Lutheran goes back 20–25 years,” says Jerry. “My wife, Angela, and I receive our medical care there. We have personal friends who are physicians there. The growth and change we’ve seen over the years has been exciting.”
Jerry’s law firm (O’Flaherty Heim Egan Birnbaum Ltd. in La Crosse) has a long history of supporting Foundation programs, from events like Steppin’ Out in Pink to capital projects like the East Building Cancer Center. On the Planned Giving Advisory Council, Jerry helps with the process of establishing major and planned gifts by offering current insights on economic trends, tax codes and tools relating to charitable giving. For example, recent years have seen a shift from charitable remainder trusts to the more donor-friendly approach of charitable gift annuities. As Jerry explains, “Gift annuities are a little less complex to establish and easier for the client to understand the tax benefits of their gift. From my perspective, it is important to have available methods that are understandable to the client and not overly complex or expensive to set up from a legal standpoint.”
Estate planning is a major focus of Jerry’s legal practice. In working with clients, he always tries to introduce a charitable component as something for consideration. “When the topic of charitable giving is brought up, there seems to be a misconception that if a decision is made to include a charitable gift as part of a will or revocable trust, it’s difficult to change or modify. That really isn’t the case,” Jerry says. “When people do have an estate plan in place, the rule of thumb is to review it every three to five years in the context of their current family circumstances. It is very easy to make any necessary changes to a will or a revocable trust and fine-tune a charitable bequest.”
Practicing What He Preaches
Jerry and Angela are a case in point. Last year, while revisiting their personal estate planning, Jerry took his own advice about a charitable component. “With Gundersen Lutheran being our health care provider, Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation seemed to be a natural choice,” Jerry says. “We both support their mission and their high level of quality care and service to the community.” After years of loyal giving, the O’Flahertys took the additional step of including the Foundation on the list of charitable beneficiaries in their will, officially becoming members of the Legacy Society.
In doing so, they derived the same sense of satisfaction that Jerry so often observes in his clients. “It’s something I hear so many times in my career: the comfort and happiness a client feels when the process is completed and their affairs are in order. After putting off estate planning for years, they find it’s not as painful as they thought it would be.”