top of page

Heckerling 53, A Yawn for Charitable Planners (at least this one)

by Randy A Fox, CFP®, AEP®

I attended the recent Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning for the first time in a dozen years. While it is considered to be among the top estate planning conferences in the country for all things estate planning, I found the program to provide very little in the way of creative applications of charitable planning strategies and information.

With the raised estate exemption, the general theme focused on income tax planning as the new direction and focus for planners of all types. While there were throngs of practitioners listening to wonderful ideas to preserve basis step-up, income tax reduction by using the new 199A provisions and fully understanding the implications of §1202 qualified small business stock, the best we got in charitable planning was how to make qualified charitable distributions from an IRA and simple donor advised fund rules.

Charitable planning appears to be the vast wasteland of tax planners with little interest shown. Yet, in a time of income tax focused planning, Charitable Lead Trusts, Charitable Remainder Trusts, Young Pooled Income Funds and other gift types all can provide significant income tax benefits. I’m not sure why the Heckerling committee bypasses mainstream charitable planning on a regular basis. Yes, this is not a conference meant to be focused on philanthropy as is the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners annual event, but it is the pre-eminent estate planning conference in America and certainly charitable planning is part of estate planning.

If this sounds like whining, it’s not meant to. It is meant to be constructive. The other 4,999 attendees all have their own experience and their own opinions. I felt a lack in an important area and am giving it voice.


bottom of page