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Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is planned giving?

Planned giving is a term that covers all kinds of structured or deferred charitable gifts such as bequests (gifts from a person’s will), trusts and gifts of retirement benefits. These kinds of donations require a little more thought and effort than simply writing out a check, but can also provide correspondingly greater benefits both to Zen Center and you.

How can planned giving help me accomplish my estate planning and charitable goals?

Planned giving helps you to leave a real legacy–a positive impact in the world that lasts far beyond your lifetime. In addition, making a planned gift can provide you with:
  • Significant tax savings in estate and income taxes
  • The power to redirect some of the portion of your estate that would otherwise go to taxes
  • The resulting opportunity to make a larger gift than might otherwise be possible
  • The satisfaction and recognition that come with making a gift of significance during your own lifetime
  • Under certain circumstances, the ability to increase financial security for both your heirs and for Zen Center through the creation of charitable trusts that facilitate multiple uses of a single asset
I like the idea of leaving a legacy, but I am not rich and I have a family to provide for. Is it really possible to make a planned gift without taking away from my family’s future economic security?

When planning the disposition of your estate, it is understood that you would take care of your family’s needs first. But one need not feel compelled to choose between providing for family and supporting Zen Center. Intelligent use of charitable income and estate tax deductions are just two of the many skillful means available to maximize both family and dharma support at the same time. Any planned gift to Zen Center–whether large or small–is significant, because it symbolizes your deepest intention to help sustain the continuation of both dharma teachings and practice.

How will Zen Center use the planned gifts it receives?


Except when otherwise designated by the donor, planned gifts will go into a special fund, the income from which will help provide Zen Center with a measure of long-term financial security. The planned giving fund is currently earmarked to support two main areas: 1) long-term maintenance and capital improvements at our existing practice centers; and 2) dharma outreach activities.

It is also possible to designate a planned gift to benefit a particular practice center or project. Please speak with Erica Kesel, Assistant Director of Development—tel: 415.354.0354 or email for restricted gift language.

How complicated is it to arrange a planned gift? Will I need to hire an attorney to set things up?

It depends on the size and complexity of your estate and on the type of gift you choose. If you want to set up a charitable trust or any other sophisticated estate planning gift structure, professional advice will be needed. IRA’s and pension plans, on the other hand, are some of the simplest, most cost-effective assets to donate to charity. If left to your family or other heirs, unused retirement benefits could be taxed at rates approaching 75%. But if left to Zen Center, the full value of your gift would be available to help continue the flourishing of Zen practice in the West.

For help in designing a program that will meet all of your estate planning objectives, please call Erica Kesel at Zen Center’s Planned Giving Department at 415.354.0354.