Looking After an Individual’s Legacy

There’s a partnership of the Community Foundation that you may not be aware of: the Elkhart County Estate Planning Council. This Council is composed of professional advisors from a number of different fields: attorneys, investment advisors, trust officers and certified public accountants — all professionals who are instrumental in advising their clients when it comes to making decisions on planning for their estates.

“Many times I hear people say ‘Estate? I don’t have an estate,’” relates Mike Pianowski, Senior Partner of Sanders – Pianowski, LLC, located along the RiverWalk in downtown Elkhart. “For example, I may be talking to a young couple who have a baby who don’t think they have an ‘estate.’ But when I ask them, what would happen to the baby if you two were killed in an auto accident? Who would care for and raise the child? What would happen to what you own and when would the child inherit that? Have you planned for something drastically unforeseen like this? Then they look at me and say, ‘oh, now we see what you mean. We have some property, a few possessions, life insurance and a little bit of money, so I guess we do have an ‘estate.”

For a number of years, Pianowski served with a group of professional advisors who compose the Estate Planning Council’s core committee. With representation from throughout the county, this group organizes quarterly meetings held at different locations that attract a wide range of fellow advisors. The purpose of these meetings? To continually educate themselves on matters affecting estate planning so they may more wisely counsel their clients. “It’s important to keep up to date on all the factors that affect our decision- making and our recommendations for clients,” Pianowski says. “Federal and State tax laws in Indiana are continually changing; probate laws too, along with Medicare and Medicaid regulations and limitations. There’s always something new to learn.”

Networking is another important aspect of these meetings, as is relationship-building. Pianowski believes it is important to know other professional advisors you are able to recommend and trust. Some of the meetings invite local professionals to discuss their unique specialties; others bring in nationally known speakers to share knowledge- based state-of-the-art concepts. Attendees are able to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as mandated by the state of Indiana.

One of the topics Pianowski feels strongly about is the importance of getting the younger generations involved. “We need to attract them; we need to keep them,” he says. “We need to continue to enhance the community. We have the great Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Lerner Theatre, Goshen’s First Fridays, the Pumpkinvine Trail, the Wellfield Botanic Gardens, the NIBCO Water & Ice Park, locally owned restaurants and retail spaces in our downtowns and throughout Elkhart County. The millennials understand that there needs to be a work/life balance… with time for volunteering in the community. Of giving back. Of helping underserved people.”

Pianowski thinks the Community Foundation provides a great service. It offers, among other attributes, expertise and professional management at a low cost. “Now we need to get the people, the younger ones, involved. We have a great group of older members who are caring and dedicated. We need to get the next generations excited about growing the community. We need to train them. And we need to continue to invest our time, monies and talent and use them wisely.”

“This County will only get better,” he adds. “We have the heart… and the leadership providing good direction.” Which all bodes well for the Community Foundation, its donors… and the community.”

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