Local Judge Stresses Importance of Financial Planning

J. Terrence Cody is a man of many talents and associations.

If you live or work around New Albany, chances are you’ve run into him. Wherever you may have encountered Judge Cody, chances are you were greeted with his patented smile and a firm handshake. That’s just the type of person he is. And you don’t need to look any further than a plaque on his desk, containing a quote from Lord Arthur James Balfour, to understand his positive mindset:

“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.”

Fighting the Good Fight

Cody received his undergraduate degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati and his law degree from Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Upon graduating in 1974, he moved back to New Albany to practice law with his father for 24 years.

While Cody genuinely enjoyed practicing law, he also had his eye on a larger goal: becoming a judge.

“I always had in the back of my mind that if the right opportunity to be the Circuit Court Judge arose, I would try to be a candidate for it,” Cody says.

In 1980, the position became available. However just six years removed from law school, he decided to wait until the time felt right.

“Even though I was qualified to run, I chose not to. When Judge Henry Leist announced his retirement in 1998, I knew that was my opportunity,” Cody says. “I was fortunate enough to win a contested primary and a general election.  I was re-elected three times, and I retired at the end of my fourth term on Dec. 31, 2022.”

During his time on the bench, Cody saw many different sides of his community, including the direct results of lack of planning and foresight. Many times, that ended with conflicts among family members that were litigated. “In probate court, I observed what happened when people didn’t have a plan in place,” Cody says. “There were fights within the family – it was difficult. It was painful for the family. Planning cannot be overstated in any way.”

J. Terrence Cody (middle) joined by fellow attorneys J. Scott Waters, Bridget Cantrell, Jim Plitz, and Gregory Neely

Cody routinely stressed the importance of long-term thinking to his clients during his time in private practice. For some, those plans included charitable giving.

“If I had clients to talk about making a Will or for planning in a sizable estate, we would have a conversation first,” Cody says. “It was my duty to try to help clients determine what their planning goals were, and if it included charitable giving. I wanted clients to tell me what their charitable interests were. I would encourage them to meet with the Executive team of an agency to determine if the organization was worthy of their support. If asked, I would make recommendations if the client had no specific organization in mind.”

One organization continued to pop up during his work with local agencies in Clark and Floyd counties: the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. Naturally, the judge took an interest in learning more about the foundation – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fighting the Good Fight with CFSI

“I can’t remember exactly when I was introduced to the community foundation, but I remember when it was formed in 1991,” Cody says. “At that time, I was not actively involved in any way, other than I may have worked with clients who left a bequest gift to the foundation in their Will.”

It wasn’t until he was approached to join the organization’s Board of Directors that Cody started learning more about the impact the Foundation was having on Clark and Floyd counties. Once he accepted the offer to join the board, his unique talents and skills were immediately put to good use.

“From my perspective, I was very familiar with agencies that assisted families in multiple ways, whether that was crisis situations, housing, mental health, or counseling,” Cody says. “I was very attuned to who received grants, large and small, from the community foundation. I was able to provide some input as to how certain agencies were able to provide services to families and support them. I was seeing the things agencies were doing on a regular basis. Ultimately, I think that input helped with the Foundation’s decisions on grant making.”

As Cody became more comfortable with CFSI and its mission, he also became more engaged. He began to financially support causes that were important to him, such as CFSI’s Community Impact Fund, which is used to support the region’s most pressing needs and priorities. He also began involving his wife, Peggy, and his sons, Patrick and Shane, in the family’s philanthropy.

“From a young age, my parents instilled in me that it was an obligation to give back to the community.  Ideally, you should give more than you take, whether that is through volunteerism or financially,” Cody says. “With our sons, I am just passing along what was instilled in me. Peggy and I have made revisions in our estate plan to include the community foundation, so we have listened to my own advice to plan.”

In the end, the trust that he had in his local community foundation sparked a relationship that has lasted nearly three decades. From serving multiple terms on the board of directors, as well as various committees in his 25+ years, Cody has learned to keep his expectations high when working with the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana.

“I know that whatever I choose to do – or whatever my clients chose – I don’t have to worry about my wishes or my former clients’ wishes being fulfilled,” Cody says. “I can trust the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. Each day, it continues to prove that it can make a difference in our community.”

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