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Legacy Giving

Conserving the Very Best of the Planet

Billy and Cheryl Geffon are making the African Wildlife Foundation a beneficiary of their estate.

Billy and Cheryl Geffon are making the African Wildlife Foundation a beneficiary of their estate.

By Jessica Lindenfelser

Like many New Yorkers, Billy and Cheryl Geffon's lives changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001. The day began like any other as Billy, a Wall Street money manager, and wife Cheryl, a veteran Newburgh, N.Y., school teacher, left for work. They came home shaken and with a completely new outlook on their priorities.

"It was a game changer. We knew many people who died that day," Billy recalls. "We had always been savers, so we decided then and there that we would retire early. Since then, we have traveled extensively and become much more involved with philanthropy."

Billy and Cheryl are both involved with the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Harry S. Truman Library Institute. Lifelong animal lovers, they also support animal welfare and conservation organizations. Raised by an uncle in a two-bedroom apartment, Billy was not allowed to have any animals as a child.

"Many years later, when I was getting married, I again lived with my uncle in that apartment. He loves to tell the story that we evicted him a few weeks after the wedding so we could get a puppy."

Since then, Billy and Cheryl—who have been married 45 years—have never been without at least one pet.

Despite neither of them ever having visited Africa, the Geffons are supporters of the African Wildlife Foundation. Billy fondly recalls visiting the elephants at the Bronx Zoo as a child and observing the gorillas with their amazingly human-like behavior. Both Billy and Cheryl are horrified at the thought of elephants and rhinos being killed by poachers for the purposes of showing off one's wealth (in the case of elephant ivory) or because of the misconception that rhino horn has medicinal or aphrodisiac qualities. They wanted to get involved with an organization that is working to protect and conserve large wildlife species and recently committed a percentage of their estate to AWF through their living trust.

"We have done well in life through a combination of hard work, career guidance and plain dumb luck," Billy says. "We decided that we want to give away 90 percent of our assets to the foundations and organizations that are inspiring others and conserving the best of the planet. We had always intended to leave our assets to charity, but 9/11 forced us to be more focused on where the funds would go."

"We never had children, and I know this is a consideration for parents when planning their estates, as most want to pass their assets to children and grandchildren. But I would encourage anyone to at least consider leaving a small amount or percentage of their assets to worthwhile organizations. Support what you love in your life and make sure it prospers when you're gone. I have found that the more you give, the more you receive back."

Make a Difference at AWF
To learn more about how you can include AWF in your estate plans, please contact Jessica Lindenfelser at 202-939-3322 or

eBrochure Request Form

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the African Wildlife Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

Bequest Language

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to the African Wildlife Foundation [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to AWF or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to AWF as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to AWF as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and AWF where you agree to make a gift to AWF and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.