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Jim Burch smilingWhen I was in high school, I was lucky enough to play the role of Henry David Thoreau in a local production of 'The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail'. During my research for the part, I purchased the book 'In Wildness is the Preservation of the World', with quotations from Henry David Thoreau and photographs by Eliot Porter. That book, and the experience of attempting to understand and portray Henry David Thoreau, helped bring my life into focus.

My grandparents had deep ties to the land. One grandfather was raised on a farm in Kansas and, even though he chose to leave the farm for a career with the railroad, remained close to his farming roots.

My other grandfather was the son of a brick-mason in St. Louis, and opted to leave the city for open skies. He was awarded a homestead tract in the sand hills of Nebraska, worked on a ranch in Montana, and later filled us with tales of his adventures.

When I was growing up, the stories of grandpa's experiences mingled in my mind with all the westerns I watched on TV and fueled my imagination. As we would drive our Rambler across the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to visit relatives, one of my favorite pastimes was to gaze out the side window and imagine I was riding on horseback across the landscape. As we'd pass a culvert or a fence, my horse and I would jump the obstacle and continue on our path: never breaking stride, always smoothly gliding over the landscape with the wind at our face.

In high school, reading Henry David Thoreau and looking at the beautiful photos by Eliot Porter took me back to my daydreams of the wide open prairies. So, I'd go for long walks in the local woods, longing to leave civilization behind, but knowing that I needed civilization to survive.

While in college, as I would stare endlessly at a map of the USA and imagine where the next phase of my life would lead, I was always drawn to the vast area along the continental divide in Montana and Wyoming that said 'wilderness'.

As I matured, moved west, and was provided the opportunity to camp and visit areas I'd only dreamed of seeing, I realized even more the importance of wildness and quiet to my soul. The peace of sitting in a virgin stand of redwoods on one birthday helped me survive a long year of challenging work. The pleasure of a morning walk at the base of the Tetons on another birthday inspired me toward a year of excellent achievement in my work.

I've never been inspired by looking at a freeway, or watching the oil rigs we used to call 'giant grasshoppers' bob up and down.

My support of The Wilderness Society allows me to help preserve some of what my generation inherited from those that came before us, in the hope that many subsequent generations will cherish the peace, serenity, and fulfillment that can only be experienced in wild places.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

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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.