Meet Denny and Bonny: Using a Legacy Plan as a Leadership Tool

It took some convincing to get Denny and Bonny to take their two young children to family camp at Fort Wilderness for the first time.

Denny had visions of a schedule that would be jam-packed with social activities. And as busy young parents and business owners, the last thing they wanted for one of their few weeks off as a family was to have to spend every s]econd on the go, making small talk with people they hardly knew. But Bonny had been to camp in college, and had loved it, so they registered.

They rolled up with a borrowed camper and had to ask for help setting it up from the family at the neighboring campsite. But they navigated the logistics, rounded up their kids, and took a tour. As they meandered through camp, they ran into familiar face after familiar face. They loved their week, and long story short, “Fort” became a trusted place of fun and freedom–where they could come year after year to experience the perfect mix of structure and play, with delicious food and good friends, in a beautiful setting.

There was worship, great teaching, and plenty of free time and fun activities to choose from. Denny was so inspired by that first Family Camp that he convinced Bonny to buy a camper on their way home. 

“And as the kids got older, we didn’t even have to worry about where they were at Fort. We knew they’d find their way back to us eventually,” says Denny. “It was a very good spiritual reawakening for me.”

They’d camp together annually over the coming years, and eventually became volunteers. They got to know the staff, and their daughters got involved, too. Denny even served on the Board for a while. Decades went by and their visits became less frequent, but when Fort Wilderness reached out about a legacy planning program offered through Apex, Denny and Bonny jumped at the opportunity.

“We were at a stage where we were eager to receive help,” Bonny says, explaining that they had a will and trust in place, but it was out-of-date, and difficult to understand. As the couple looked to their retirement years and transitioning out of their business, they didn’t know where to begin. “To have someone who would walk through things with us and explain terms and ideas–without making us feel ignorant–was just so appealing.” 

Her dad has just passed away, and though he had his affairs in order, Bonny knew first-hand just how much work it can be for a family to settle an estate. The last thing she wanted was to leave their complex estate for their daughters to figure out, should the unthinkable happen.

They worked with Legacy Consultant Christy Boysen, who put together illustrations that showed how their actual assets would play out based on the decisions they were making.

“She explained things–and then re-explained things. There was no end to her patience,” Denny says. The pair eventually landed on a number of different trusts to help manage their assets and reach their goals. They created a living trust to hold–and maintain–their family cottage on behalf of their kids, who were consulted about their long-term wishes. By estimating annual property taxes on the cabin, maintenance costs, and incidentals, they could fund the trust with enough assets for the long-haul, so the property would be cared for and would remain in the family, no matter what happens to them.

A Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) would allow them to direct pre-tax or “qualified” assets into an investment that would support their girls over many years, while gifting a substantial amount to their favorite charities at the tail-end of the trust term. They also set up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) to consolidate and manage their charitable giving–plus additional DAFs they can fund in their daughters’ names. All of them are set up and partially-funded now, but additional funds can stream into those entities in the years to come and after Denny and Bonny are gone. The family works together to allocate charitable funds, so that the girls can get to know their parents’ giving habits for years before they need to take it on themselves. 

Finally, the pair set up spendthrift trusts, which hold assets for adult beneficiaries–in this case, the daughters–and distributions happen according to specific timelines or life events set up in the trust documents. They set up specific life seasons and milestones in which a trustee can allocate funds to the daughters, in addition to unforeseen needs–like medical expenses–where additional funds can be released.

“We’ve been talking through how things should be distributed. We’re not just dumping wealth on our kids. It’ll be paced out so they can avoid financial mistakes, and there’s protection from tax,” Bonny explains.

They’re essentially “tithing” on their estate: based on the biblical principle, a percentage of the couple’s income will go to charity in the form of an outright bequest when they die, plus an additional percentage of annual gains. As payouts come to the girls from the spendthrift trust, a portion will go to DAFs in the girls’ names–so they will be able to continue their parents’ legacy of generosity but do it on their terms, with some flexibility to manage on their own.

“Christy is like a wealth of knowledge and experience. She’s been so patient,” Bonny adds. “She gave us time to think things through, and homework assignments that were small enough to work on as we had time between meetings. Then she would follow up with reminders. It was so helpful to have someone keep us on task and provide pacing, because it’s easy to let a month go by without doing anything. She also had experience with other clients and could bring in ideas. She felt like a friend!”

Bonny adds that there’s peace of mind that comes with having a fresh and current plan in place that fits their life stage and current goals. But as things change–like family dynamics, legislation, or their health needs–they can always revisit and update their plan.  

“It would be easy to tuck this away and then forget about it,” she says.  So, they’ve set regular check-ins with Christy to reassess and make sure everything still fits. As for their relationship with Fort, the camp that provided the program to them, the pair says it has deepened their commitment and given them a more long-term view of their involvement there.

“I feel like Fort has invested in us. That says a whole lot,” Denny says. He’s gotten reconnected with the organization’s leadership through the legacy planning experience, something that had gone by the wayside after serving on the board and as a volunteer years ago. “We’ve loved Fort for years, but this refreshed everything for us. It’s been so fun.”


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