You Can’t Take it With You – Even if You’re Buried with It

Talk about a shocker of a headline: A cemetery worker in Wisconsin stole a valuable Fender Telecaster electric guitar from the casket of a deceased individual who had asked to be buried with the instrument.

Hey, I’d like a Tele, too – but like most sane people, I draw the line at robbing graves.

This story should have some resonance for fundraisers, especially in light of the many millions of dollars that were raised for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Center substance-abuse clinic when a bunch of the musician’s classic guitars were sold at auction.

Gifts of Personal Property

The difference here is that of “taking it with you” versus “leaving the world a better place.” And that’s where planned giving comes in. There are all kinds of planned gifts — including those that allow you to make gifts of personal property (like an expensive guitar) to a nonprofit.

As a player myself, I can definitely understand wanting to be buried with a guitar. Yet I also realize it’s not like I’d be able to play it! A more philanthropic alternative could be, for instance, leaving that $2,000 guitar to a local music school that could truly put its value to good use.

Truly Appreciated

It’s the great “appreciated stuff” recipe: Once donated to a nonprofit, that collectible Telecaster could be converted into cash that can then be used to spread the enjoyment of music-making — which in my opinion is a much better outcome than having a six-string locked away forever in a box six feet under. And it could have been done in a way that would have cemented the original owner’s legacy as a man who made an impact in the world.

The simple fact that one guy was ready to pry this guitar from its owner’s cold, dead hands indicates that a more principled individual would be ready to lay down some serious money to get his own living hands on it.

Of course, such a decision must be made before the original owner passes on. Which just goes to prove that it’s never too early to start talking about planned giving.

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