Q & A Planned Giving Team
Being a partner of Heninger and Heninger, PC is not just a career for Ralph H. Heninger. It's a family legacy. Ralph has provided legal services to the community for 53 years in the practice his grandfather started in 1900.
With a vast array of knowledge from his various experiences and cases, Ralph is a wonderful addition to the St. Ambrose Planned Giving Council. "I've had the good fortune to represent many people over the years, so I can walk in the shoes of those who want to give philanthropically to an educational institution," he said of the expertise he brings to the council. In addition to his years of experience, Ralph is also an accredited estate planner and is a past president of the Quad City Estate Planning Council. Read on to learn more about Ralph's experience.
Q. How did your relationship with St. Ambrose develop?
A. As I began my career and became active in many community organizations, I realized that St. Ambrose was a significant educational institution and provided a lot of benefits. Over time, I've had many clients who've made gifts to St. Ambrose and I became acquainted with the Advancement staff in that way. I was already working closely with St. Ambrose to provide insight on various gift planning related items when Sally approached me about the Planned Giving Advisory Council. I accepted and enjoy working with the various members of the council. Each member has individual abilities and our combined efforts assist the university.
Q. How do you help individuals wanting to support St. Ambrose formulate their dreams into executable plans for philanthropic gifts?
A. One of the first things I do is find out what the client wants to accomplish. Once I understand the goal, then I evaluate the ways we can reach the goal. I also ask if the donor has other professionals on board, such as an attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent, or accountant. I ask if the donor has prepared a will or trust. I discuss with the donor's professionals the financial objectives, and from that point, how to proceed to accomplish the donor's objectives. As you get into the planning process, there is a lot of detail, but in the initial meeting I try to keep things focused on the client's ability to achieve their goals.
Q. How does your role on the Planned Giving Advisory Council benefit St. Ambrose?
A. As a lawyer and a member of the St. Ambrose Planned Giving Council, I am much like a quarterback coordinating how the team will play the game. I have the fundamental position of making sure everything comes together. In this role, it is very important that I work well with the client's various advisors and understand what the various disciplines do. I'm a very strong team player and I work well with clients' various advisors, which is a benefit when working through the details of a gift plan. Over the years, I've worked with many individuals in our community who are in this business. It's an advantage because we have a level of comfort working together.
Q. How do your years of experience benefit you and St. Ambrose when working with donors?
A. If a particular advisor is not certain of the direction we should take on a particular gift, I may be able to suggest a solution for them to consider based on previous experiences I have had. In addition, I've learned that a little extra works goes along way. I've worked with technical consultants at software companies before to fully understand a product that another advisor might be using. This provides me with extra knowledge to ensure all parties can achieve their goals.
Q. Why is it important for donors to have a team of advisors when creating their gift plans?
A. It is important in order to make an effective gift in this complex world that requires an understanding of many disciplines. When all members of the team are involved and know the goal, they can provide input related to their discipline on various ways to achieve the goal. One perception some clients' have is there is a competition between these various professionals. If these groups can't work together, then the client's objectives don't get accomplished.
Q. You've worked on some complex charitable donations that have involved many parties. How do you ensure all parties are included and the donor still achieves their goals for their philanthropic gift?
A. I try to ensure the various parties and professionals have a real say in how things are getting done. The end result is the client gets done what they want to accomplish. This open dialogue means members of the team also learn from each other.
Q. What's one challenge you experience in the world of gift planning?
A. In the future, there will be challenges dealing with estate plans for digital assets (those things we store on computers). This is a rapidly developing area and the legislation has not kept up. Steps are currently being taken to formulate some of this legislation. These items will amount to wealth in a digital form.
Q. What's one thing you think others should know about estate planning?
A. It is important that individuals considering charitable gifts also look at planning by will and trusts, as well as making decisions about power of attorney and living wills. These items go right along with the estate planning discussion and are important issues that need to be discussed.
Thank you to Ralph for his time and expertise. If you are interested in receiving educational materials to help you begin planning your estate or refining the plan you already have in place, please contact Sally Crino at 563-333-6080 or CrinoSallyE@sau.edu. You can also browse our planned giving website to find articles related to specific topics.