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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of stations.

Planning for the Future

In Southern Oregon and Northern California, summer is the season for floating rivers, enjoying music at outdoor festivals, harvesting gardens, and taking jaunts to the coast. For JPR, it’s a season for tracking wildfire activity, covering local events and making progress on the many projects we have underway to improve our mountain-top transmitter sites before the snow flies.

This summer, we’ve also taken time to participate in National Make-A-Will Month, which took place in August. While most people know that having a will is a smart thing to do, yet most people don’t have one according to a recent national survey. The biggest reason why: They just haven’t gotten around to it. National Make-A-Will Month is an attempt to break through this inertia and encourage more people to take the proactive step of making a will.

While thinking about and planning for the end of one’s life probably won’t be remembered as a high point of summer, it might be one of the most enduring and meaningful things you do. To make the process easy and remove some of the logistical hurdles associated with making a will, JPR has partnered with an organization called FreeWill, which has pioneered an easy-to-use online platform that helps you create a legally valid will in about 20-minutes -- California residents can also create a Living Trust. The platform is centered around including charitable organizations in your plans, but that is not a requirement to use the tool. FreeWill was created by co-founder and co-CEO Patrick Schmitt, who developed digital fundraising strategies for political campaigns. Schmitt told the New York Times that he created the FreeWill platform out of frustration. He wanted to write a will before taking a trip abroad, leaving his assets to some of his favorite charities, but he found the existing services cumbersome. “I had run email fund-raising for President Obama in 2009 and 2010,” he said. “That whole crew put thousands of hours into making it really easy for you to give $27. That it was so hard to give 2,000 times that amount was a light-bulb moment for me.”

Over the years, JPR has been the fortunate beneficiary of several estate gifts that have made a lasting impact on our organization, including bequests that helped us build our new studio facility and purchase a grand piano for our live performance studio. Since these kinds of gifts are not recurring, we generally use them for one-time projects that will have long-term benefits for our listeners or invest the proceeds in our endowment fund, which generates a sustainable annual revenue stream to help fund our service to the region. By managing planned gifts in this way, they serve as a catalyst for the long-term health of our organization and have a lasting impact on future generations of JPR listeners.

As you take steps to plan for your future, we hope you’ll include drafting a will high on your to-do list. And, we hope that our FreeWill online tool, which is available at ijpr.org, can simplify what can be a daunting task and help you develop an estate plan that creates a meaningful legacy and reflects your lifelong values.

Paul Westhelle oversees management of JPR's service to the community.  He came to JPR in 1990 as Associate Director of Broadcasting for Marketing and Development after holding jobs in non-profit management and fundraising for a national health agency. He's a graduate of San Jose State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications.