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A Momentous Decision

Alan Otis '71 embraces 'joy of giving'

Several years ago, Alan Otis '71 made the momentous decision to pledge half of his estate to Alma College.

"I have never once doubted the rightness of choosing Alma as my sole philanthropic posthumous target," says Otis. "Central to my decision about Alma College is the deepening respect, admiration and love that have been rekindled for the institution as an active alumnus, which magnifies the wonderful life experiences and excellent education I had as a student."

Otis, an investment advisor and financial planner in Grand Rapids, freely admits that his life has had its ups and downs. A recovering alcoholic who has been sober now for more than 13 years, Otis has embraced a "joy of giving" attitude that has sustained him in his years of sobriety.

"For most of my life, I had a nagging belief that I needed to give back to society and, ultimately, needed to give back more than I had been given," says Otis, a member of the Alma College Alumni Board. "My activities with Alma College and the Alumni Board, plus some involvement with Homeless Youth Services in Grand Rapids, have been things that I find deeply satisfying."

Growing up in Midland, Otis chose to attend Alma College, following in the footsteps of his two older brothers. He initially assumed he would major in business. However, a biology class with Ron Kapp changed everything.

"It did not take very long for Dr. Kapp, with his passion for science, his passion for teaching and his gift of communication, to turn me on like a light bulb," he says. " I ended up with three As and a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.

"While today I do not work in a field of biology, it has served me well. It particularly has fed my passion for gardening. I have had wonderful times talking gardening with [former director of alumni relations] Bob Eldridge," he says.

Individuals wishing to consider an estate gift to Alma College are encouraged to contact Sherie L. Veramay at 989-463-7316 or, to learn how to join the Alma College Heritage Society.

- Mike Silverthorn

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Alma College a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

Bequest Language

I, [name], of [city, state ZIP] give, devise and bequeath to Alma College [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestrictred use and purpose.

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Alma or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Alma as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Alma as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Alma where you agree to make a gift to Alma and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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