Giving Back

Planned Giving Provides Peace of Mind

While Supporting Your Causes for Years to Come

IF YOU’VE BEEN TO a community event in Decatur in the last 20 years, you have probably seen local resident Arthur Ratliff taking photos. Arthur has lived in Decatur since 1987 and has recently retired from State Farm after 31 years as an insurance agent. He has been a supporter and dedicated volunteer photographer for Decatur Education Foundation (DEF) for many years, but he recently made a significant commitment: Ratliff has included DEF as a beneficiary in his estate.

As a former insurance agent who has spent his career helping his clients with estate planning, Ratliff is hoping to inspire others to do the same by planning ahead to give back to the causes about which they care.

His commitment to giving back to his community began in the 1990s where he volunteered alongside the Junior Achievement Program. “Junior Achievement taught economics to children and helped provide after school programs to middle and high schoolers,” Ratliff said. “We taught them how to apply for a job, what credit cards are, things like that.”

“We are so honored that Arthur has chosen DEF as a beneficiary. He has been a dependable photographer and supporter for many years, and his planned gift ensures that his impact will be felt for years to come.”

– Gail Rothman, DEF Executive Director

Ratliff then went on to become one of DEF’s first volunteers, working with the organization as a special events photographer.

“Whenever they have events or fundraisers, I come do photography for them. My favorite event at which to take photos is the scholarship awards banquet, where I take pictures of the recipients with the donors.”

In his professional life, Ratliff spent years as an insurance agent helping people with their estate planning. He recently made the decision to include DEF in his own estate plans because of his time and connection with the organization.

“I like what they’re doing. I’ve always had a connection with [DEF],” he commented.

“They’re very hands-on, and I really like the fact that they reach out to the kids in need in the community. They’re always accountable for the funds that they receive. Sometimes you donate funds to an organization, and you don’t know what they’re doing with it, not that they’re doing anything dishonest, but you don’t know where that money goes. DEF isn’t like that.”

Ratliff is now encouraging others to take charge of their estate plans and leave a positive impact after they’re gone. And he believes there’s no reason to wait. “It’s not anything to put off or postpone,” he added. “Many of us have more time on our hands than we did when we commuted to work every day. It’s not a comfortable thing to do – a lot of my customers didn’t want to talk about dying or death, but it has to be discussed and planned for. Now is the time to do it.”

Ratliff understands why people tend to wait until they’re older to begin their planning but believes this practice is counterproductive. “Lots of people wait until they’re older because they think ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ and they’re probably right, but as an agent, I’ve seen people pass at every age.”

The impact that individuals can make in their estate planning is sometimes even greater than they would be able to make during their life. Restrictive budgets, in particular, are a significant limitation when it comes to donations. But by taking out a life insurance policy and leaving a small percentage of that to a charity or organization, individuals can have a massive impact.

“If someone has a $100,000 life insurance policy, for example, and they gave a small percentage, say 10%, of that, think about how much it would do. There are very few people who, when they donate to the DEF, can afford to give $10,000 at a time, but most of us can afford to do that from life insurance proceeds,” Ratliff said.

The process of starting estate planning is a daunting task for many. In reality, it is no more than a series of conversations with an insurance agent.

“If you don’t have a life insurance policy, there are plenty of life insurance agents, some of them in the Decatur Business Association, who could sit down and talk to you about it.

The same person who sells you a car or home insurance policy can talk to you about this,” Ratliff said.

However, once the initial process is com plete, it is important to revisit and reevaluate plans every so often to ensure they continue to align with their current values.

“A young person might choose their parents as their beneficiaries, but [an older person] might consider siblings, children grandchildren,” Ratliff said.

“Planned gifts enable donors to create a lasting legacy that can have a big impact on the school system in which they were raised,” commented DEF Executive Director Gail Rothman. “We are so honored that Arthur has chosen DEF as a beneficiary. He has been a dependable photographer and supporter for many years, and his planned gift ensures that his impact will be felt for years to come.”

Estate planning can be a difficult process, and some might find it hard to decide where to donate. Ratliff chose to give to DEF, an organization he valued and trusted to use his donation wisely. “Any charity or school system that you personally benefited from, I believe, is a worthy recipient to which you can give something back,” he said. “If you don’t have a lot to give right now, this is a way to give back more than you could have in your lifetime.”

If you would like to learn more about making a planned gift to Decatur Education Foundation, you can contact Gail Rothman at