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The Bell Lap of Life May Include a Legacy Gift to Charity

Posted March 2019

In the summer Olympics 10,000-meter race, a runner must complete 25 laps around an Olympic-sized track. On a standard quarter-mile track at a high school or college, it would take eight laps on the inside lane to cover two miles. In both cases the final lap, sometimes signaled by the ringing of a bell when the leading runner begins it, is known as “the bell lap.”

The final stage of life is also known as the bell lap. A person diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer surpassed expectations by living another six years, but eventually chemotherapy and other treatments could no longer control the disease. As she grew increasingly weaker, she remarked that she was now on the bell lap.

As we all know, the number of laps, measured by age, varies greatly. One neighbor is on the bell lap at the age of 58, while another is working out at the gym and going on cruises at 95. We also know that, measured by accomplishments, impact on others, and life adventures, a person who dies before the end of life expectancy may have covered more laps than the person blessed with longevity. Still, that bell lap does come, expectedly or unexpectedly, and the important thing is to have run a good race.

Sometimes, not just the final months of life but also the whole period of life known as retirement is called the bell lap. In fact there is a book by Joseph Hearn called The Bell Lap: The 8 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as You Approach Retirement. More commonly, however, the bell lap does not refer broadly to retirement—which could be thirty years—but more specifically to the final period of life, which may come in the last years of retirement or even during one’s productive years. Thus planning for it entails more than taking steps for a secure retirement (though that is important) but also ensuring a satisfying legacy—one in which broken relationships are mended, loved ones are provided for, and life has made a positive difference.

Many of our friends have decided, as part of their legacies, to leave bequests or other end-of-life gifts to establish endowments—the income from which will flow in perpetuity for the purposes they value. It’s knowing that the bell lap is not the end of the race.

We welcome your inquiry if you would like to discuss such a legacy gift. We can show you how to structure it so that your security and that of your family are ensured. Please contact us today.

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