Ethical Considerations for Gift Planners Working with Older Individuals

This article first appeared in the December 2017 edition of the Association of Fundraising Professional Northern New England Chapter’s e-newsletter.  It is reprinted here in its entirety with their permission.

By Daphne Moritz

With a gradual rise in life expectancies overall, it is no surprise that gift planners are increasingly working with older donors. Most gift planners are aware of and follow ethical canons using guidelines offered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. The ethical guidelines have in mind the best practices when it comes to working with donors.

While it is essential for planners to understand these guidelines, putting ethical considerations into practice may be more challenging, particularly when working directly with an aging donor population. Those over age 65 retain a great deal of wealth, but we also know that one in nine people over age 65 has dementia, and this number increases dramatically for those over age 85. Moreover, even without a formal diagnosis of dementia, many older individuals eventually struggle with their executive functioning, finding even daily banking and bill payment challenging. Knowing this, should lead gift planners to be extra vigilant with aging donors.

Take multiple meetings before a donor completes a gift. Most gift planners know that cultivating a relationship with an individual is a critical part of the gifting process. Multiple meetings will allow you to get to know each other in more detail, ask a greater variety of questions, and responsibly review a prospective donor’s intentions.

Be aware that seniors may have been subject to scams, some under the guise of charitable giving. If the individual you are working with is aware of fraudulent and deceptive schemes, she may be less forthcoming and developing the trust relationship with her may be more challenging. Be extra vigilant to avoid misleading marketing techniques.

Put it in writing. It is advisable to put any sort of planned gift agreement in writing so that both parties are aware of the agreement they are entering into. Disclosing the terms prior to finalizing the agreement will provide more clarity for everyone involved.

Another idea is to put yourself or one of your family members in your prospective donor’s shoes. You wouldn’t want anyone taking advantage, or even appearing to take advantage of you or your loved ones. Thus, consider the “relative” test to be a good rule of thumb when working with older donors.

Daphne Moritz can be reached at or 802-864-9891.

Mark Melendy Attends 52nd Annual Heckerling Institute of Estate Planning

Mark Melendy, Sheehey Furlong & Behm Estate Planning Department Chair, is attending the 52nd Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning held in Orlando, Florida from January 22 – 26, 2018.

The Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning is the leading and largest conference for estate planning professionals in the United States and provides unparalleled educational and professional development opportunities for estate planners. The program covers topics of timely interest and practical guidance to plan effectively in the current uncertain and unpredictable legal and economic environment. Leading national estate planning experts will explore today’s most important tax and non‑tax planning issues, including the planning implications of recently enacted and anticipated legislation.


Sheehey Announces Three New Principals and Directors of the Firm

The firm is pleased to announce that Kevin A. Lumpkin, Owen J. McClain and Heather E. Ross have become Principals and Directors of the firm effective January 1, 2018.

Kevin Lumpkin joined the firm in November 2013. Kevin’s practice is focused primarily on civil litigation, serving both businesses and individuals.  Prior to joining Sheehey, Kevin served as a law clerk for the Vermont Superior Courts in Bennington, Addison, and Chittenden Counties.  In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Super Lawyers magazine named Kevin to its list of Rising Stars in New England.  Additionally, Kevin received the Vermont Bar Association’s Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award in 2016 for his work providing indigent litigants with legal representation.  He serves on the board of the Young Lawyers Division of the Vermont Bar Association.  Kevin is a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School.

Owen McClain joined the firm in September 2014. Owen practices both civil and administrative litigation. He provides counsel regarding construction contracts, energy projects, utility tariffs, transmission and distribution issues, and a variety of other matters affecting some of Vermont’s largest contractors, developers and regulated utilities. Prior to joining the firm, Owen served as a law clerk in Vermont Superior Court. Owen graduated magna cum laude from Vermont Law School.

Heather Ross joined the firm in December 2016 after fourteen years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont. She has extensive experience in complex civil and criminal litigation, as well as investigations. During her time at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she prosecuted a variety of fraud cases, multi-state drug trafficking cases, and human trafficking cases. She began her career clerking for the Honorable William K. Sessions III, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Vermont and spent six years in civil practice before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Heather currently serves on the Boards of KidSafe Collaborative, the Federal Bar Association, Vermont Chapter, and the Chittenden County Bar Association.