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Frequently Asked Questions

What is legacy giving?

Legacy 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 gifts benefit both Zen Center and you, while creating a legacy that will last for generations.

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

Legacy giving helps to make a positive impact in the world that lasts far beyond your lifetime. In addition, making a legacy 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 wealthy and I have a family to provide for. Is it really possible to make a legacy 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 legacy gift to Zen Center–whether large or small–is significant, because it symbolizes your intention to help sustain the continuation of both dharma teachings and practice.

How will Zen Center use the legacy gifts it receives?


Except when otherwise designated by the donor, legacy gifts will go into a special fund that helps provide Zen Center with long-term financial security.

It is possible to designate a planned gift to benefit a particular practice center. Please speak with Tova Green, Vice President—tel: 415.354.0352 or vicepresident@sfzc.org—for restricted gift language.

How complicated is it to arrange a legacy 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 legacy gift structure, professional advice will be needed. IRAs and pension plans, on the other hand, are some of the simplest, most cost-effective assets to donate. 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 Tova Green at Zen Center’s Planned Giving Department at 415.354.0352.