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The Joy of Giving to Defend Our Wild Places

Chela KunaszChela Kunasz learned to appreciate America’s wild places at a young age. The daughter of a Russian immigrant father and an American mother from Silver City, New Mexico, her parents used what little money they had to take their family to places such as Lake Tahoe and Mount Lassen. “My parents loved the outdoors,” Chela shared. “I was taught to appreciate wilderness and wildness and to love our beautiful planet.”

While attending the University of California, Berkeley—as a member of the UC Berkeley Hiking Club—Chela witnessed the controlled flooding after the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. “I watched them flood that beautiful place. Our hiking club was horrified by such a political decision. That was when I began to get increasingly involved in giving to environmental and educational organizations such as TWS.”

Chela taught and researched applied math and physics at the University of Colorado for 30 years and has continued to devote her life to challenging the threats to our planet and our communities. “It’s quite shocking what can happen due to politics, climate change and overpopulation.”

An avid mountain and rock-climber, kayaker and traveler, Chela has seen the impacts of environmental devastation all over the world. In 1983, she traveled to Tibet and witnessed first-hand the damage to the environment and the people there. In 2001, Chela started Friends of Tibetan Settlements in India (FOTSI), a nonprofit organization that aids Tibetan refugees and projects in resettlement areas in India.

Alongside serving as president of FOTSI, Chela gives to over 30 organizations annually and has included over a dozen in her long-term plans. “We’re big on education,” Chela shared. “My husband and I decided for the benefit of the planet not to have our own children, but to get involved with helping and educating other people’s children as well as trying to save wild places for them to enjoy.”

Chela has been donating to The Wilderness Society for more than four decades and has recently named TWS a beneficiary of her IRA and trust and is making a generous bequest. “The Wilderness Society has a wonderful reputation. I’ve chosen to include them in my estate plans because of their commitment to defending our wild places.”

“My whole reason for being alive is to be of use to others and the planet,” Chela shared. “My husband and I have long wished to help people, animals, the environment and the planet for the next generation as much as we can. When you think ‘what did I do?’, and you can be joyful about what you leave behind, that’s true wealth.”

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The Wilderness Society a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to The Wilderness Society, a nonprofit corporation currently located at 1801 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20006, or its successor thereto, ______________ [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to The Wilderness Society or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to The Wilderness Society as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to The Wilderness Society as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and The Wilderness Society where you agree to make a gift to The Wilderness Society and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.