Be a Superhero: Create Your Legacy
Written by: Jim Plitz, Attorney
You can be a superhero – to your family and community – by creating and leaving a charitable legacy. And you don’t need superpowers to achieve it! We can look at Batman as our guide.
Among the superheroes, Batman is unique because he has no superpowers. Although he is trained in the martial arts and possesses a range of high-tech gadgetry that allows him to fight crime, Batman is entirely human. He does not have genetic mutations, X-ray vision, overpowering physical strength, flying ability, genius-level intellect, or any other god-like powers.
But Bruce Wayne does possess something that is key to his moonlighting as Batman: money. As the heir to an enormous fortune, Wayne is one of Gotham’s wealthiest citizens. He is also a major philanthropist who donates money to various causes. While his philanthropy is overshadowed by his masked vigilantism, neither would be possible without the money left to him by his parents.
Carrying on the family legacy means different things to different families. You probably do not want your heirs to follow in the footsteps of Batman—at least when it comes to crime fighting. You might, however, want to inspire them to the philanthropy of Bruce Wayne, even if you do not have the Wayne money. If so, your estate plan should be structured in such a way that it gives your loved ones the finances—and the flexibility—to do good on their terms.
Creating Your Legacy
Most superheroes are fated to become who they are due to forces beyond their control. Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk were the unwitting victims of radiation. The X-Men were born with genetic mutations that made them societal outcasts. Captain America received an experimental “super-soldier serum.” And Superman hailed from the alien planet Krypton.
Bruce Wayne developed the ability to overcome powerful foes, but he does so primarily through his personal drive and ingenuity, with an assist from his family fortune, which he inherited at age eight when his parents, Martha and Thomas, were killed. Also instrumental in his development was Alfred, the family butler who became his legal guardian. Alfred looked after Bruce at the family mansion, Wayne Manor, while he was growing up.
Hopefully, there is not a tragic event that triggers the inheritance you plan to leave, but instead you have instituted a well thought out plan to create your legacy. Further, you may not have a trusted guide, such as Alfred, but you do have access to an incredible resource in the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. The Community Foundation can help guide and structure the right charitable plan to meet your personal goals.
Philanthropist – Helping your Hometown
There is plenty to suggest that, in addition to fighting bad guys in his Batsuit, Bruce Wayne used his money to improve Gotham in other ways. Your legacy can help your hometown in a very meaningful way – in areas that mean the most to you.
Batman, through the Wayne Foundation, a holding company for the Thomas Wayne Foundation and the Martha Wayne Foundation, addresses social problems. The Thomas Wayne Foundation is focused on medicine, and it funds free clinics throughout Gotham. The Martha Wayne Foundation supports arts and education, including orphanages and free schools.
There are multiple examples of Bruce directing Wayne Foundation resources to help needy Gotham residents. These include funding drug rehab clinics, rebuilding the city’s viaduct, and even sending money to an overseas refugee camp. Bruce Wayne has built hospitals, libraries, and orphanages, and every Wayne Enterprises employee has their college education paid for in full.
What are the causes that you feel strongly about? What about the rest of your family? The Community Foundation of Southern Indiana has many options to help create the best situation for you and your family – a legacy of giving and helping the community that is profound to you and your loved ones. You don’t need to have Wayne money to do great things.
Inspiring the Bruce Wayne in Your Life
One of the top deathbed regrets revealed by a longtime hospice care social worker is that people wish they had done more for others. The social worker reveals how many patients made the dying decision to donate money to a charitable cause so they could make a difference before it was too late.
The good you do in the here and now can not only make a difference in the lives of those you support, but it can also inspire the next generation to follow in your charitable footsteps, just as Bruce Wayne was inspired by his parents’ efforts to make Gotham a better place.
Martha Wayne, for example, worked at a free medical clinic and organized fundraisers. Thomas Wayne instructed Bruce to “honor the Wayne Family legacy, and commit yourself to the improvement of Gotham City, its institutions, and its citizens. Invest in Gotham, treat its people like family. Watch over them and use this money to safeguard them from forces beyond their control.”
Thomas Wayne implored his son and heir to take care of Gotham but did not give a specific prescription for doing so. If he had, there is no doubt that this plan would not have included his son becoming Batman. Nevertheless, if Bruce had been duty bound to sit behind a desk at the Wayne Foundation and follow his late father’s dictates, rather than having the freedom to use his wealth as he saw fit, Gotham may well have been worse off.
This does not mean you cannot nudge people in the right direction. Incentives in your estate plan can reward a loved one for doing charitable work, without telling them exactly what work to do. You could, for example, add a provision directing additional money and property to a child or grandchild who dedicates a certain number of hours per week, month, or year to a charitable cause. You could guarantee their material needs will be provided for if they take up full-time charity work in lieu of a career. Or, like the Wayne Foundation, you could pay for their college education in exchange for service.
With Great Wealth Comes Great Responsibility
Creating a multigenerational legacy of giving and supporting our community should be everyone’s priority. With the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, the opportunity to give back is not just for the wealthy. Those fortunate enough to have some money to spare should feel a sense of responsibility to the wider community beyond their own family. The example you set in this life can resonate far into the future as your loved ones continue to give time and money to charities. You can also structure your estate plan in such a way that makes giving back a family tradition, even when you are no longer around.
If philanthropy is near and dear to your heart and you want your loved ones to carry on the spirit of giving, your estate plan should reflect your charitable goals. Working with the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and a qualified estate planning attorney, your charitable goals in creating a lasting legacy can be put in place today, creating your legacy for generations to come.
This article was provided in partnership with the Southern Indiana Estate Planning Council. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. The law sometimes changes. Documents persist on the internet indefinitely. Information may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. The author does not undertake responsibility to update the information. This particular article was provided by: Attorney James P. Plitz
James Plitz, “Jim”, focuses his entire practice on estate planning and administration. His goal is to help families get through life’s toughest times – the loss of a loved one. Jim believes in supporting the community for which he serves. He is on several non-profit boards, and volunteers his time and energy helping those who need a helping hand. Jim feels that even a small gift in your Last Will or Trust can leave a lasting legacy for everyone around you.
 Wayne Foundation, New Earth, DC Database, https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Wayne_Foundation#New_Earth (last visited Oct. 24, 2022).
 Dashiel Reaves, Gotham’s True Hero Was Always Bruce Wayne, Not Batman, Screen Rant (Sept. 24, 2022), https://screenrant.com/bruce-wayne-gotham-charity-money-billions-philanthropy-batman/.
 Grace Bluerock, The 9 Most Common Regrets People Have at the End of Life, mgbmindfulness (Feb. 24, 2020), https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-most-common-regrets-people-have-at-the-end-of-life.
 Thomas and Martha Wayne, Batman Arkham Wiki, https://arkhamcity.fandom.com/wiki/Thomas_and_Martha_Wayne (last visited Oct. 24, 2022).