Could You Be the Next Charitable Legacy?

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning
It's not often that charitable giving makes international news. It's also not often that when it does, the donor turns out to be an elderly school librarian who drove a 1992 Plymouth and didn't own a stove.

The University of New Hampshire recently announced it had received an unexpected gift of $4 million from the late Robert Morin, 77, who worked nearly 50 years in its Dimond Library, according to an article in the Boston Globe. UNH officials announced his bequest earlier this month after his estate cleared probate court, nearly a year after his death. 

Little Instruction

Morin's financial advisor told the Globe that his client wanted the university to set aside $100,000 of the gift for the library - but that the school could spend the rest of his entire estate in any way it chose. "He said, 'They'll figure out what to do with it.'"

This man's complete trust in a university to do what's best with his hard-earned money might not fit the mindset of some of your clients who want to control the way every penny of their savings is spent after their deaths. However, Morin apparently didn't want to leave behind a huge set of rules.

Save and Invest

When he retired in 2014, Morin had spent very little of his accumulated wealth on himself. Often he reportedly ate Fritos and a Coke for breakfast, a simple cheese sandwich for lunch, and frozen dinners at home because he had only a microwave with which to cook.

His financial advisor told the Globe that he met Morin in the early 1970s, when the librarian was setting aside most of his salary into a checking account and certificates of deposit. Mullen helped him move money into mutual funds and annuities, which complimented additional savings Morin had in a retirement account. 

Morin also purchased several life-insurance policies, all benefitting the university from which he earned his bachelor's degree in 1961. He later earned his masters at Simmons College in Boston.

A Befitting Legacy 

Among students and his fellow staff, Morin was a beloved fixture at the school. A little over 5 feet tall, he cut an odd figure around campus as he smoked a pipe, had a hunched back, and wore an elevated shoe. He immensely enjoyed chatting with students, especially those who worked in the library, Mullen said. 

His connection with improving the lives of students fits well with the university's decision to allocate $2.5 million of his gift to its career center. 

When Morin entered an assisted living center, he became a football aficionado by learning the rules and memorizing the names of players he saw on television. His interests in football coincide with the university's move to devote $1 million of his gift to a new video scoreboard.

Based on the articles we've read about Morin's gift, it doesn't appear that he set up a charitable trust, but rather he depended on a simple will to carry out his wishes. A revocable living trust could have avoided a costly and lengthy probate administration and ensured that his savings were maximized to benefit the school in the largest way possible. 

To read more about common estate planning issues, check out our free guide, Estate Planning Pitfalls: The 12 Most Common Threats to Your Estate & Your Family's Future. If you have a specific case or a question, please don't hesitate to call our office at 919-443-3035 or use our contact form.