Hello everyone! So nice of you to check out our blog. This is my first post, but I look forward to writing many more. My name is Josh Olmsted and I am the Development Associate for FPR. I moved here last fall with my wife and two kids. My background is in nonprofit management and fundraising and I feel incredibly lucky to have obtained a position in my field that I am passionate about.
Puerto Rico is fascinating to me for many reasons, but from a professional standpoint, I see so many opportunities for nonprofit organizations to help turn this island around. Nonprofits serve valuable societal roles; education, providing goods and services, meeting the needs of the underserved, supporting local culture and environment, enhancing accountability and transparency of government entities…the list goes on and on.
As a fundraiser I obviously have a keen interest in how nonprofit organizations are not only able to survive, but thrive. Every year ~$300 billion of private contributions are given to charities in the US and roughly $24 billion of that is given via charitable bequests. http://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics/
A charitable bequest is when a person leaves a gift to a nonprofit organization in their will. This gift can be in the form of personal property such as real estate, stock, a cash gift, life insurance policies, and even annuities that can provide guaranteed financial income for donors for the rest of their lives. With so many types of bequests and seeing the impact they can make, I knew it was important to work them into FPR’s long term plan for sustainable success.
So I was pretty surprised to find out that Puerto Rico still operates a forced heirship law. Forced heirship is when descendants are entitled to a portion of the deceased’s estate, regardless of whether or not there is a will, even if it is against the deceased’s wishes!
The negative impact of this law is far reaching and will continue to grow as the nonprofit sector evolves in Puerto Rico. Let’s put aside the monetary loss to nonprofits for a second by forcing estates to go to people against a donor’s wishes. I’ve spoken with several people who have contemplated leaving the island altogether because they want to be able to designate their estates how they wish. The complexity of the law may even discourage others from creating a will altogether. The long term effect will mean a significant loss of support for nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico during a critical time of growth for the sector.
There are some groups (including the Association for Fundraising Professionals) aware of the adverse effects of forced heirship who are working to introduce legislation to abolish it. Hopefully this work will pay dividends and the citizens of Puerto Rico will be able to designate their wills as they see fit. In the meantime, if you would like more information on how this law could potentially affect your will, make sure to contact a qualified lawyer so your estate is distributed according to your wishes.