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New scholarship program created by $2 million estate endowment

For many people in Macomb County, drafting a will represents a real opportunity to give something back to the community they care about. Early on in the estate planning process -- or even before it begins -- some individuals define a number of entities or organizations they want to help. Other people decide to start a new legacy altogether by creating a charitable foundation.

In the case of one Michigan man and his sister, a lifelong dedication to education spawned a brand new scholarship fund, known as the Popke Family High School Scholarship Fund. The man's sister died in 2007 at the age of 92 and left her estate to her brother so that the pair could collectively contribute to the endowment. When her brother died in 2012, he left the majority of his assets to the scholarship fund.

The man and his sister got the idea from The Kalamazoo Promise, a concept launched in late 2005. Under the terms of the pledge, Kalamazoo public high school graduates can receive up to four years of college tuition at a steeply discounted rate. The Popke Family High School Scholarship Fund will deliver a similar assurance to select Otsego High School graduates.

To qualify for the program, scholarship recipients need to achieve a grade-point average of at least 2.75, and maintain that average as full-time college students. The student's institution of choice must offer an accredited degree program, and preference for the scholarship will be given to students with a demonstrable financial need.

The Popke siblings' hope was that other people would become inspired to create similar scholarship trusts in their own communities. In fact, a significant number of people do decide to leave a portion of their estates to similar ventures, or to charities that the estate owner has supported over time. To prevent future disputes, individuals considering this type of estate planning will need to take advantage of the legal resources available in determining the ideal distribution of assets.

Source: Mlive.com, "Otsego scholarship program inspired by Kalamazoo Promise, family attorney says," Julie Mack, Jan. 17, 2013

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