Category Archives: Estate Giving

An Estate Gift Challenge

A friend from college called me last week with an interesting challenge. She practices law in a neighboring state and had questions about how a charitable gift might be carried out. It’s an example of good intentions and some less-than-perfect estate planning.

One of her clients is the executor of his father’s estate which includes a multi-million dollar farming business. Many years ago the father created a plan that passed some wealth on to his adult children. The remaining value in his estate is directed to “agricultural education” in his (small) local community. It ended up being a considerable amount of money!

In this case, the deceased donor expressed general charitable intent but didn’t identify an organization to carry out the work. His children, who are not farmers and do not live in that community, are a bit at a loss for what to do.

My friend and I talked about options for carrying out this donor’s wishes including possibly partnering with a community foundation, a school, or the 4-H. It is likely that the family will need to secure a court order to approve payment of the bequest to whatever organization they ultimately choose.

My advice for my lawyer friend and other advisors is to encourage donors to discuss plans with a charity and create clear, written gift agreements before making the plan final. If the plan is already in place, regularly reviewing the language with a development officer or the President of an organization to ensure everyone is in agreement about terms is a good idea. And really great attorneys will help clients keep an eye out for problems like when a named beneficiary is closed and no longer exists as a nonprofit. Heirs and the executor of estate will appreciate it!

Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act

The cartoon above was in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week along with an article titled “Congress Is Coming for Your IRA” by Philip DeMuth. Qualified plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit sharing plans and IRAs are fantastic retirement savings tools and terrible estate planning tools. With the likely to pass SECURE Act, leaving assets in these account to heirs gets more challenging.

The SECURE Act has already passed in the US House and is likely to pass in the Senate. It makes lots of positive changes and a couple of changes that may create challenges. Here is an example from “What Business Owners And Their Families Should Know About the New SECURE Act” in Forbes on July 2, 2019:

“The new Act, if passed by the Senate (which appears very likely) will require most non-spouse beneficiaries of qualified plans and IRAs withdraw the entire balance within 10 years of the death of the owner. If Richard dies and leaves his IRA to Liz, his spouse, she can take it over her anticipated life expectancy, under the regular RMD rules. If she leaves it to her 25-year old granddaughter, the old rules would allow the granddaughter to take distributions over her life expectancy of 57.2 years. The new rules require her to take the entire balance within 10 years. By our calculations, under SECURE, a $1 million IRA would incur a tax acceleration of about $300,000. SECURE changes inter generational wealth transfer.”

A little planning now can make a big difference in the future. If/when the SECURE Act passes the Senate, you may want to have a conversation with your financial planner or other advisors. While you are at it, you may want to consider leaving a portion or all of a tax deferred retirement account to a Augsburg or another charity. The full amount of a gift made this way passes to nonprofits without taxation. We have information about making gifts in this way posted online here.

IRA Charitable Rollover Giving–Smart and Easy

This morning I signed a number of thank you letters to Augsburg donors who are making gifts using IRA charitable rollover giving. This can be a really smart giving option. Planning to make future gifts in this way can be a strategic solution to balancing your charitable goals with other priorities.

One reason this way of giving is becoming popular is that IRA funds are taxed whenever they are taken out. The tax burden never goes away – even future beneficiaries or heirs will pay income tax on IRA funds they receive from your estate, and federal estate taxes may apply, as well — for estates exceeding $11.4 million. If you have not yet taken your required minimum distribution, the IRA charitable rollover gift can satisfy all or part of that requirement.

We’ve got Frequently Asked Questions and Answers posted online if you are interested in learning more. Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions.

Augsburg Legend Jack Osberg ’62 Makes Legacy Gift

Former Augsburg College head football coach Jack Osberg ’62 and his spouse Nina have created a legacy gift for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

“Augsburg has touched our lives. I’m a graduate. Nina is an honorary Auggie. Three of our six children graduated from here: Peter ’93, Jamie ’95 and Anne ’01. I got to work in my dream job as head football coach. We want to help, so we named Augsburg as a beneficiary of our retirement plan.”


Many people want to leave a legacy. If it seems complicated though, they may not get around to it. That’s where Qualified Retirement Plans like IRAs come in. These retirement assets often generate high taxes if you leave them to children or grandchildren. Yet gifting them to charitable causes that share your values can be extremely simple. And through December 31 of this year, if you are age 70 ½ or older, you can make an immediate charitable gift up to $100,000 from your IRA using the charitable rollover.


Retirement assets make ideal gifts to charitable organizations like Augsburg College. If you leave them to family members or loved ones (other than your spouse), they may be subject to estate or inheritance taxes─and they will be subject to income taxes. That adds up in a big way.

Taxes can eat up more than half the value of the retirement asset. When given to charitable organizations, no tax is due, preserving the full value and giving you a powerful impact.

If you would like to name Augsburg College as beneficiary, simply contact the administrator of your IRA or retirement plan for a Change of Beneficiary Form.

To create the gift, simply name a percentage of the plan’s value or name a specific dollar amount for Augsburg on the form, and then return it to the plan administrator. It’s as simple as that!


The IRS is allowing an opportunity for IRA charitable rollovers through December 31, 2013. Donors who are age 70 ½ or older can transfer up to $100,000 directly to a charity from a Traditional IRA to a qualified charity, including Augsburg College, without paying income taxes on the funds transferred. The gift must go directly from the IRA to the charity.


Call Augsburg’s Office of Gift Planning at 612-330-1575 or e-mail Doug Scott at to schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your planning options.

Newlyweds Honor the Memories of their First Spouses by Naming Faculty Offices in the CSBR

Augsburg alumni Evelyn Sonnack Halverson and William H. Halverson just returned from their honeymoon to Norway and England. Sitting beside each other on a couch, holding hands, they finish each other’s sentences as if they have known each other for decades. And they have.

Evie’s first husband, Paul G. Sonnack Jr., and Bill Halverson were Augsburg College faculty colleagues, overlapping there from 1959 to 1967. The two couples were good friends, so close in fact that the Sonnacks were baptismal sponsors for Kay, one of the Halversons’ five daughters.

Recently Evie and Bill each decided to make naming gifts, in memory of their first spouses, for faculty offices in Augsburg’s new Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Life insurance gift makes Paul G. Sonnack Jr. faculty office possible

“After Paul died in 1992,” Evie says, “I set up a life insurance policy to benefit the schools where he taught─Augsburg College and Luther Seminary. I wanted to do something in his memory, and at Augsburg I created the Paul G. Jr. and Evelyn Sonnack Scholarship Fund. Recently I decided to cash in the insurance policy and give the money to the schools right away.” Part of her gift will expand the scholarship fund, and $25,000 will name a faculty office for Paul.

Donna McLean, Director of Development Initiatives at Augsburg, suggested to Evie that she consider naming a faculty office after Paul. “I thought it was a splendid idea,” Evie says. “This opened up a new idea completely for how my gift could be used. The faculty office is another way to reinforce the memory of Paul at Augsburg in perpetuity.”

Paul and Evie met as students. They both sang in the Augsburg Choir, where Evie was a soprano soloist. After graduating, Evie taught school while Paul attended Augsburg Theological Seminary. Then they were married. “In those days,” she points out, “you couldn’t be married while going to seminary.” He was then ordained and served Lutheran Free Church congregations in Moose Lake, Minn.

Paul began teaching at Augsburg in 1949, after graduate study at the University of Chicago. Later he was professor and dean of Augsburg Seminary. From 1967 to his retirement in 1989, he was Professor of Church History at Luther Theological Seminary.

Remembering a beloved professor

When you read part of the Rev. Judith Mattison’s poem about him, Our Teacher, you immediately sense the impact Prof. Sonnack had on students:

With a burst of energy he would meet us at the door,


with a twinkle in his eye,

loyal to the Gospel

                        to truth, to justice

and he would Teach!

as if our lives depended on it

                        and they did.

Evie’s life too was deeply embedded in the College. She worked at Augsburg in various capacities including secretary to the academic dean. She later served Luther Seminary as Director of Housing.

The Sonnacks had two children, a daughter Mary who died at age 15 months, and a son John, who is married and has one son.

Evie was deeply touched to learn that another family, giving anonymously, also named a faculty office in honor of Paul G. Sonnack Jr.

Important symbols on Bill and Evie’s wedding day

Bill says that as happy as he and Evie are in their new marriage, they loved their first spouses very deeply and have not forgotten them. To symbolize this truth on their wedding day, Evie wore diamond earrings Paul had given her on their 40th wedding anniversary, and Bill wore a birthstone ring that his first wife Marolyn had given him on his 50th birthday. They placed two red roses on the altar in memory of Paul and of Marolyn.

Bill also met his first spouse in the Augsburg College Choir. Though he went to Augsburg for four years, Marolyn Sortland came just for her senior year. She earlier had gone to Concordia College, and then worked as a teacher while earning money to complete her college degree. In the meantime, her parents moved from Fargo to Minneapolis, and her brothers had enrolled at Augsburg, so she came too.

Marolyn devoted herself to family and community

Bill and Marolyn married shortly after graduating. Marolyn taught school for a year and then focused on her family which eventually included five daughters, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “She was a superb mother and grandmother,” Bill says.

Marolyn was the primary caregiver for their daughter Kay, who just before her 18th birthday had a severe stroke that left her without the ability to talk or move any voluntary muscles. Marolyn cared for Kay for 35 years, until her death in 2006. As a victim of Locked-In Syndrome, Kay was unable to communicate with others.

A volunteer leader, Marolyn served as president of the Ohio State University Women’s Club, as education chair for the League of Women Voters in Columbus, and as a board and committee member for several arts organizations.

Bill personifies the liberal arts through his careers

After college graduation, Bill taught high school English and music in Sherburn, Minn., and later received both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. He then joined the Augsburg College faculty to teach philosophy. In 1967, Bill became associate dean in the Office of Academic Affairs at Ohio State University.

Bill retired in 1987, and then pursued a quite different career translating books and other materials primarily focused on Norwegian music. He has translated most of Edvard Grieg’s song texts and co-translated with Leland Sateren two books─Edvard Grieg: The Man and the Artist, and A History of Norwegian Music.

“I have always valued and treasured my Norwegian background,” Bill says. “I learned to appreciate classical music as an Augsburg student, and took a special interest in Grieg because he was Norwegian.”

In connection with the release of the Augsburg Choir Legacy Recordings in 2010, Bill penned a monograph titled The Sateren Legacy, a brief account of the life and work of Augsburg’s legendary former choir director.

Looking for and finding a way to honor Marolyn

After living in Ohio for 40 years, Bill and Marolyn returned to Minnesota in 2007, the year after Kay died. Marolyn died in 2012 of Parkinson’s Disease.

“Since her death last year, I have been thinking about ways to honor Marolyn’s memory,” Bill says. “When Donna McLean came to visit Evie about naming a faculty office for Paul, I realized that this would be a suitable way to memorialize Marolyn also.”

Bill and Marolyn previously gave a gift to Augsburg College to create the Kay Halverson Scholarship Fund. “We had saved money for each of our daughters to go to college,” Bill says. “When Kay had a stroke at an early age, we knew that she could not go to college. We wanted to use the money then to help others access a college education.”

They were honored by the College with the Spirit of Augsburg Award in 2001.

Bill says that Augsburg College “meant a great deal to Marolyn and me. Now it is important to me to find ways to preserve her name in perpetuity. Evie and I both are delighted with this way to show how much we loved our first spouses and to make sure that their memories live beyond our lifetimes.”

Bill and Evie honor the past while embracing the future.

Gordon Odegaard ’52 Leaves $2.5 Million Gift to Augsburg

Gordon Odegaard never sought attention from Augsburg College.  He entered Augsburg in 1948 (Class of ’52). Gordon left quietly after one year. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951, spending three years assigned to the Army Security Agency, as an instructor and manual writer.

Born March 6, 1930 in Thief River Falls, MN to Morris and Gladys (Vigness) Odegaard, he was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith. He graduated from Lincoln High School in 1948.

Following his discharge from the Army in 1954, Gordon returned to the University of Minnesota and, in 1955, Gordon graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with distinction.

For the next 10 years, Gordon worked as an insurance agent, as a salaried employee and proprietor of his own business. In 1965, he became employed with the Federal Department of Defense and retired from that service in 1995, as a senior operation staff officer.

Gordon also worked as a tour guide at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. He was an avid reader and did a lot off traveling to many countries. He enjoyed all music and played piano for his own enjoyment.

Gordon chose to maintain a quiet ongoing relationship over the years with Augsburg College. He consistently supported the College with modest gifts, but declined all direct contact.  Like many Auggies, he simply lived a life of worth and service. However, his one year at Augsburg College must have been a year that highly impacted his life. Gordon passed away in January 2012. Gordon’s love for Augsburg and his generosity shine ever so brightly after his death.  Augsburg College was remembered by Gordon with an estate gift in excess of $2.5 million.

Gordon’s generosity to Augsburg leaves a legacy that will impact generations of Auggies to come. That legacy of generosity will be honored by a named classroom in the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Lundeen Estate Gift

Augsburg College has received an unrestricted estate gift from Elwood and Lois Lundeen.  Elwood Lundeen graduated from Augsburg College in 1942 and gave generously to the college for decades.  Elwood was born on March 3, 1921 and grew up on a farm near Lindstrom, MN. During WWII he was a medic in the Army. Elwood graduated from Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. He was active in Education where he worked more than 30 years in the St. Paul Public Schools as a teacher, counselor and principal. He was a resident of the eastside of St. Paul and long time member of Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church.

If you would like information about including Augsburg in your estate planning, please visit our Website or contact Vice President Heather Riddle at or 612-330-1177.