SGI-USA PLANNED GIVING Is the way of making gifts to SGI-USA by will, trust, annuity, life insurance, real estate and stock transfers for the mission of Kosen Rufu. Please talk to the National SGI-USA headquarters by calling 310-260-8900. We have advisors who speak Japanese as well as English.

A Message from a fellow member.
Why do I need a will?
What Is Planned Giving?
What Is the Most Common Way to Make a Planned Gift to SGI-USA?
I don't have a will but it sounds like a good idea. How do I make a valid will or other estate plan?
Is There a Simple Way of Making a Gift to SGI-USA Using Life Insurance?
Is there a way of making a gift to SGI-USA during my lifetime and maybe save on income taxes?
Can I direct my gift towards a specific purpose?

A Message from a Fellow Member

Dear Fellow Members,

The SGI-USA Planned Giving Program is designed to help SGI members make a gift, either before or after death, to make Kosen Rufu a practical reality. Of course, any such gift needs to be made with the advice of the donor's attorney or estate planner.

In the history of our Buddhism, gifts of food, clothing and money allowed the Daishonin to survive, train his followers in the correct teaching, and create a rich body of documentary proof. These gifts actually made the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism possible. Similarly, sincere gifts throughout the ages to the present time funded the expansion of Kosen Rufu from 3,000 members in one country to 12 million members in 190 countries and territories.

While SGI USA has many non-member friends, the giving of heartfelt gifts is the duty of us loyal members. In this regard, we stand-alone. Standing alone is not a bad thing; it is our tradition. I know many of us began our practice in humble circumstances, in sickness, gripped by conflict, or longing for true happiness. Although our battles may continue, many satisfying victories have been won and will be won.

The SGI USA organization also began in humble circumstances. For example, the first Chicago community center had a Gohonzon room smaller that a modest living room. Today, a beautiful Culture Center proudly serves as a castle for Kosen Rufu.

However, serious challenges exist. Some members practice in cities and towns without a community center or must travel great distances to reach a community center. Such travel consumes time and money and exposes members to traffic risks. Deserving, bright SGI youth need help to attend Soka University of America. Youth Internships at SGI-USA headquarters and the expansion of FNCC require funding.

Many members have no will or estate plan for the distribution of their assets either during life or after death. While this is a purely personal decision, lawyers and estate planners feel this is a mistake. Lack of a will or estate plan can result in your assets being distributed under State law in a manner you may not like.

Please consider making your desires known in a properly drafted will or other estate document. Please consider making a gift to SGI-USA as a declaration of your values in this lifetime and desires for the future. SGI-USA staff professionals will explain the options available and refer you to the impartial help you may need. Your confidences will be respected at all times. Your gifts will be used with the utmost care and effectiveness and will not be wasted in any way.

Bob Hasegawa, J.D. American Gongyo

Why do I need a will?

If you die "intestate" (without a valid will), the State will decide how your property will be disposed of. The State will follow a law called the "intestate succession statute," which varies from state to state. Your personal wishes, loves, dislikes, life values, and common sense are ignored. The guardianship of children, the fate of Fluffy the Dog and any benefit to SGI-USA are decided in a way you may not like.

Make a valid will (or other proper estate plan or document) and you have nearly total control over what happens to your property during life and after death.

Example one.

Here's a fictional example that applies in some states: Jack and Jill have been married for thirty years and have two children. A son, Jacko, has an unresolved drug problem and spends all of his money on illegal substances. A daughter, Jilly just graduated from medical school. Jack and Jill spent a large amount of their savings on Jilly's education. Jill was planning to go back to college when Jilly graduated. Jack died without a will or other estate document. Without a will, Jack's separate property will be divided 1/3 to wife Jill, 1/3 to son Jacko and 1/3 to daughter Jilly, who is now a medical resident making $70,000 per year. Is this the result Jack and Jill truly desired?

Jilly may do the right thing and turn over her share to Jill. Or she may not. Maybe she wants to buy a new Harley for her handsome boyfriend Biker Mike. Jacko needs his share to get out jail and pay his lawyer. Jill has just turned fifty and may not be able to go back to school to get out of a series of dead-end jobs.

Example two.

Here is another fictionalized example. Mrs. Night was born in Japan and became an SGI member at an early age. After practicing for a few years, she married an American Air Force master sergeant. Sergeant and Mrs. Night moved to the United States, where Mrs. Night remained a devoted SGI-USA member. They had no children. Mr. Night retired from the Air Force and became a police officer. Later, he also retired from the police force. Mr. Night died at the age of 70. He had an old will from the Air Force which left everything to Mrs. Night. Mrs. Night lived a comfortable life and lovingly raised valuable exotic dogs. Unfortunately, Mrs. Night died suddenly, at the age of 80. Like many Japanese people of her era, she had no will.

The Public Administrator, the County official who takes care of the property of people dying without a will, inventoried Mrs. Night's property and found that she had a mortgage-free house, a Lincoln Town car, substantial cash savings, twenty samurai swords collected by Mr. Night and, of course, her dogs. The Public Administrator found that Mrs. Night's closest living heir was a cousin living in Japan.

The estate lawyer liquidated (sold-off) all Mrs. Night's property, including the dogs. The cousin-heir flew into town for one day and left with the estate proceeds of $529,607 the next day. The cousin said she had met Mrs. Night for fifteen minutes, forty years ago. According to the cousin, Mrs. Night had been shunned by her family in Japan for marrying an American and going against the family religion.

If Mrs. Night had proper advice from a lawyer of her own choosing, she might have made other choices about the distribution of her property. Would she have wanted her dogs to live out their lives in the home of a friend rather than the puppy mill? Would she have left something for the education of her best friend's children? After all, Mrs. Night often said that they were her real family. Would she have left her Town Car to the young man who drove her countless times to medical appointments and activities? Would she have made a gift to SGI, the organization she devoted thousands of hours to in life, where most of her friends practice, which conducted her marriage and funeral?

What Is Planned Giving?

Planned Giving is the making of a gift to SGI-USA by including SGI-USA as a beneficiary in a provision of your will, estate document, or transfer during life. The gift may be money, real estate, shares of stock, life insurance proceeds, proceeds from pension funds, IRAs or 401(k) plans or other property which can be readily sold. The gifts can take effect either during life or after death.

As the name implies, Planned Giving requires making a plan and thinking clearly about how you want to distribute your assets. Outlined below are several ways you can insure that your desires are carried out. SGI-USA has a national staff of professionals who are available for consultation on a confidential basis.

A "beneficiary" is a person or organization that receives property through a Will, trust, life insurance policy or other estate document. A "donor" is the person giving the property to the beneficiary. A donor may have one or many beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can be organizations or persons and can be given unequal amounts of property.

What Is the Most Common Way to Make a Planned Gift to SGI-USA?

The "bequest in a will" is the most common and easiest way to make a gift to SGI-USA. A bequest is property specified in a will naming a beneficiary (recipient) of the specified property. A "will" is a signed legal document that states the details of the will maker's decisions as to the distribution of his or her property upon death. A will must be written, signed and witnessed according to the law of your State. A will can be changed at any time before death.

Examples of bequests: Long Tom Member has practiced Nichiren Buddhism for twenty years. Although he was broke at the beginning of his practice, he has since accumulated a comfortable amount of assets and job security. Long Tom attributes his change in fortune to changing his attitude towards work and his relationships with others. Following President Ikeda's guidance, he became "indispensable" at his work place. He "created harmonious relations with his colleagues and superiors, using wisdom and discretion along the way." As a result of his practice, he was promoted four times and became the third ranking executive at his company.

With his children grown and he and his wife comfortably set, Long Tom amended his will (a codicil) by making a bequest to SGI-USA, using the services his family lawyer. His bequest reads:

I give, devise and bequeath to the Soka Gakkai International-USA of 606 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, California 90401, a not-for-profit-corporation of California and an exempt religious organization under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code the amount of $xx,xxx (xx,xxx dollars). I further direct that interest or other income that may be earned by said bequest shall also be paid to the Soka Gakkai-USA from the date of my decease until distributed.

Jane Nan Member, Long Tom's wife, is not a Nichiren Buddhist but appreciates his practice because he has gone from an angry man who changed jobs on a regular basis, to a valued, respected executive and loving husband and father. John also was a great help to Jane's father during his final illness. Jane decides to leave (devise) a piece of land she got as a child to SGI-USA. Jane's bequest reads the same as John's except that instead of "$xx,xxx (xx,xxx dollars)" the legal description of the land is used:

"lot 4, block 2 in the Cinder Block subdivision, commonly know as 888 Tarantula Place, assessor's parcel number 7711, all within the City of Nukedville, NV 89111."

I don't have a will but it sounds like a good idea. How do I make a valid will or other estate plan?

1. Make a complete list of all of your property. Include identifying and descriptive information such as account numbers (for bank accounts, IRA and 401K accounts, pension funds, insurance policies), serial numbers of especially valuable items, vehicle identification numbers, legal descriptions of real estate etc. It is a good idea to check the beneficiaries of all your various accounts and policies. Many times a divorced spouse unintentionally remains as the beneficiary. Also check free term life insurance policies offered by banks, credit unions and credit card companies. These are usually in the amounts of $1,000 or $2,000 and remain in effect for as long as your account is current.

2. Consider how you want your assets distributed either during life or after death. A will or other estate document is a declaration of your values in life, of your relationships and loyalties. For example, a life partner who is not married to you will get nothing without your valid will. Your family may decide you need a good Baptist funeral and burial. Your pets will probably be destroyed if you do not make arrangements for them and set aside funding for their care. A will is one way to insure you accomplish your wishes. There are several others, such as trusts, that might be appropriate for a person in your circumstances.

3. Talk with your lawyer about drafting a will or trust document. If your lawyer does not practice estate planning, have him refer you to one that does. If you do not have a lawyer, ask your friends for recommendations. Please remember, your lawyer works only for you. His or her job is to advise you and to draft the appropriate documents to effectively carry out your intentions. A good lawyer will save you and your beneficiaries money, time and aggravation.

4. Do-it-yourself will and trust documents are not quite as bad as do-it-yourself dentistry, but almost. In many areas, a lawyer will advise you and draft a will for about $100-$200. A do-it-yourself will or trust kit will cost between $10 and $20. If you make every optimal decision and do everything right, which is doubtful, you might save $150, the cost detailing your car or a case of cheap wine.

Is There a Simple Way of Making a Gift to SGI-USA Using Life Insurance?

Yes. You can name SGI-USA as the beneficiary of a new or existing policy. For an existing policy , ask your insurance agent how to change the beneficiary of a policy . This usually involves filling out a form and submitting to your company. Upon death, SGI-USA receives the proceeds from the policy. For a new policy, simply make SGI-USA a beneficiary or partial beneficiary.

There are two basic types of Insurance: "whole life" and "term." Insurance policies are contracts between the insurance company, "insurer," and the policy owner or "insured."

In a "term" policy, the owner pays a relatively small amount of premium for a large amount of coverage. If the owner stops paying the premium, the policy is cancelled. Nothing is due the owner from the insurance company. Depending on the wording of a term policy, the policy may or may not be cancelable by the insurance company. As the owner grows older, the premiums go up.

In a whole life policy, the owner of the policy pays a higher premium and creates a "cash surrender value" for the policy. Generally, the insurance company may not cancel whole life policies. Eventually, the whole life policy will be "paid up" meaning that no more premium payments are due, yet the face amount of the insurance is paid the beneficiary upon death of the insured.

Whole life policies upon which premiums have been paid for a number of years may still have value to the owner, even if the owner stopped making premium payments.

You can make a gift of a "paid up" or partially paid up whole life policy to SGI-USA by transferring the ownership of the policy. Since this gift is made during life, it qualifies for an income tax deduction.

Is there a way of making a gift to SGI-USA during my lifetime and maybe save on income taxes?

Yes. Because SGI USA is a tax-exempt organization under section 501 (c) (3), your gifts generate an income tax deduction. The specific amount of your deduction is governed by the tax code and depends on the type of gift you make. If you are interested in these options or other options that may be available, please talk to our National Planned Giving Staff.

Here are examples of gifts made during life.

Gift Annuity Agreements -- The donor transfers cash, securities or property to SGI-USA now and SGI-USA agrees by contract to pay the donor a fixed income for life. This annuity is qualified for an income tax deduction. In addition, part of the annual income paid to you by SGI-USA also qualifies for an income tax deduction.

Life Estate Agreements -- The donor transfers a farm or residence to SGI-USA now and reserves a life estate for the donor and the donor's spouse. The donor and the donor's spouse continue to have full enjoyment of the property for the life. The value of the real estate qualifies for a current income tax deduction.

Sale of Real Estate to SGI-USA at Less-than-fair Market Value -- The donor sells real estate at less than fair market value to SGI-USA. Generally, the donor receives an income tax deduction for difference between the fair market value and the sale price.

Can I direct my gift towards a specific purpose?

SGI-USA has several broad categories for the use of your funds. These include: The Youth Development Program focuses on providing YWD and YMD growth opportunities through twelve month internships at SGI-USA Headquarters in Santa Monica; scholarships and internships for Young Writers, special conferences and training sessions throughout the country; regular guidance visits by Youth Division Leaders; and publication of CDs, DVDs and books designed for young people. Support and maintenance of FNCC and the expansion of "FNCC" type events throughout the country. Expanding the number of Community Centers, Activity Centers and Culture Centers nationwide. Scholarships for SGI-USA members to attend Soka University of America. While every gift is greatly appreciated, your restrictions attached to a gift may detract from the usefulness of the gift. For example, the location and construction of a Community Centers is governed by the local building code, planning and zoning laws. So a gift of a residence "so long as it is used for a Community Center" may or may not be of value. However, a gift of real estate that can be sold and the money used to establish a Community Center is a great gift.