One Family's Gift of Hope

“Suicide is such an under-recognized phenomenon, and it is an urgent threat to public health,” says Laura Roberts, MD, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Each year, more than 36,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. That is one person every 15 minutes. Really, every life is touched by suicide.”

A couple who wishes to remain anonymous dedicated a heroic amount of time and money to help their beloved son, who was diagnosed with a mental illness called schizoid affective disorder. They talked extensively to leading investigators, trying hard to get answers.

In the end, they couldn’t help their son. Tragically, at the age of 34, he took his own life. The experience left them with the realization that “we don’t know a hell of a lot about mental illness.” John and Jane, not their real names, would like to help others avoid such a painful journey. They’ve chosen Stanford University School of Medicine as a place to create a better future for others facing a similar situation.

“We both want to give the bulk of our estate to charity,” says John. “Supporting research in mental health comports with our thinking. We want what we’ve accumulated to be put to constructive use.”

With a gift of real estate located in Tiburon, California, John and Jane created a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) that will benefit Stanford’s research in mental health after their passing.

The couple, wishing to free themselves from some of their property management responsibilities, chose a gift of real estate to fund the CRUT. The property was subsequently sold by the CRUT; the couple received a charitable income tax deduction, avoided the capital gains taxes on the sale of the property, and now receive a payment stream for the remainder of their lifetimes. With Stanford serving as trustee of the trust, the university manages the trust administration and invests the assets.

The Gift of a Lifetime

The couple first began investing in real estate in 1972, with their purchase of a three-unit building on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill. It took five loans to make the purchase. “We put it together, but just barely. We both wanted to be financially independent, and we were willing to stretch,” remembers John.

Through the years, they continued buying investment real estate.

John says he had wanted to support Stanford ever since Jane’s father and brother received excellent treatment at Stanford Hospital years ago. Jane’s father believed that his life was saved by Stanford doctors.

“I always liked Stanford and I’ve checked Stanford’s investment record for consistent returns. We as donors have to do our due diligence,” says John.

“It’s a huge relief. Working with the Stanford planned giving staff was wonderful. We want to support Stanford’s efforts in this very important work.”