Changing My Will

In Chapter 11 of Volume 1 of A Rhodes Retrospective (2015), I described the rationale for creating the MODW Website/Blog. I hoped to encourage kindred-spirit Goodheads to discuss and advance the civic standard as the basis for reform of public education in the United States. Since the standard website/blog template allowed for three subject areas, I added Politics/Business and Health Care to Education since I also wanted to promote research and discussion in those troubled areas. The civic standard is an example of a big concept that could change the entire field of education, but all proposals that could make our democracy work better, regardless of scope, are potential subjects.

I was thinking “inside the box” and assumed MODW should seek 501 (c) 3 certification in order to attract tax deductible contributions. This approach did not satisfy my goals for MODW, and so I changed my will to a traditional will where my family would acquire most of my estate. This too seemed a questionable decision since my family is deeply divided along religious and political lines (skewing right wing as my youngest brother Mark is a missionary who supports Trump). The typical family will provides incentive for family to hire an estate sale company to sell all estate assets as quickly as possible so proceeds can be distributed to family. The typical estate sale company charges 40 percent for its services, and further reduces prices in order to attract buyers. Thus over 50 percent of the estate value is lost at the outset. This also is not what I want for the fate of my estate.

Now as I write this in August 2023 I have come up with an approach aligned with my values by thinking “outside the box.” I want to transfer 100% of my small estate to Make Our Democracy Work Enterprises, Inc. (“MODWE”), but with directions to the MODWE Board of Directors to hold rather than sell estate assets after I die. The new goal will be to continue the existence of MODWE by NOT selling estate assets if possible. We will not seek 501 (c) 3 certification, and will pay property taxes on the big house at 6048 South Locust Circle (“the MODWE Center”) and other expenses from approximately $132,000 in MODWE liquid funds. The rationale is that once an estate item is sold, capital gain taxes are due, and lawyers and accountants further deplete assets by arguing over taxes due. We of course welcome donations from those who do not require tax incentives.

By not selling estate assets, no tax is due, and the MODWE Board of Directors can continue holding the MODWE Center and its contents, as well as the adjacent rental at 6459 E. Maplewood Avenue (“the MODWE House”) indefinitely into the future. Therefore I encourage the Board of Directors which will have complete control of all my assets after I die to negotiate with my tenants at the MODWE House (John and Kim and their children Hunter and PennyLane) to extend the lease for another five years, and in five year extensions thereafter so no estate taxes are due. I see it as win-win because the tenants will not be burdened by the conventional mortgage needed to purchase the MODWE House, and my estate including the MODWE Center and its contents can continue indefinitely as my legacy.

Donald Trump

Volume II of A Rhodes Retrospective published in January 2015 contains no reference to Donald Trump. He had announced his candidacy for president on November 15, 2014, but few of us took him seriously. My friends and I assumed that he had entered the race to embellish his brand, and had no chance of becoming President of the U.S. Like many, I underestimated the extent of anger at the status quo which had become deadlocked and almost non-functional. The anger was stimulated in part by many publications like that of Thomas Picketty depicting the extent of income inequality in the U.S. I did not realize that my anger as outlined in Volume 1 was also shared by many of those on the right who also did not want to continue with a deadlocked political system. Trump appealed to and ultimately controlled most of these discontents, and the result was that Trump was voted in as the 45th President of the United States of America. And the greatest threat to our democracy in the history of the U.S.A. !

But MODWE will continue as its Board of Directors pursue the goal of perpetuating MODWE by leasing rather than selling estate assets after my death, and the ultimate goal of supporting any common-good cause they want with any surplus over and above carrying costs for the MODWE Center.