Giving and Gratitude
A Redondo Beach couple's estate plan includes helping others.
BY NANCY BRANDS WARD / PHOTOGRAPHED BY KRISTIN ANDERSON
When it came time to conduct estate planning, Margaret Dano and Alan Wozniak relied on their heads as well as their hearts. As business professionals, they carefully weighed how to direct their estate funds. But as a couple who weathered Dano's breast cancer diagnosis, they put their hearts into their estate planning too, choosing to leave a gift to Providence Saint John's Health Center.
Wozniak, 62, works with investments while Dano, 61, is retired from corporate work and now serves on the boards of two publicly traded companies. "If I did my job well and did my financial planning correctly, we are going to have money left over," Wozniak says. "We felt it was important to include charity in our estate planningand giving to Saint John's captured our desires."
Their experience receiving care at Saint John's, he says, "was life-changing. They got us through an emotional, traumatic event."
Dano was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She immediately began researching her treatment options and decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy with breast reconstruction. She then chose plastic surgeon Jay S. Orringer, MD, at Saint John's to see her through.
Dr. Orringer proved to be the doctor she needed, and Saint John's nurses in the hospital's Caritas unit delivered the attentive, compassionate care Dano needed, she says. "Jay would come in on Saturday if he needed to," Dano says of the doctor. "The care we received, the experience we had at Saint John's was world-class. We were so grateful for the care."
The grateful Redondo Beach couple immediately asked Dr. Orringer how they could give back to help others in need. With Dr. Orringer's input, they funded a daylong, off-site training program for nurses.
Later, when they began their estate planning, Saint John's immediately came to mind. "When I saw what good stewards they were and how hard they worked, it gave us a lot of confidence they would be careful and responsible with the money," Wozniak says.
Dano feels strongly that the hospital will make the most out of their estate gift. "I was raised Catholic, and I'm appreciative of that faith. That was a connection for me," she says.
Moreover, she adds, Saint John's Foundation reflected an attitude rare in philanthropy. "Saint John's was thankful for any gift, no matter what the size. When we talked to other hospitals, it was a case of 'how much, how big?'"
They set aside funds for family members and directed IRA funds to Saint John's and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centers San Pedro and Torrance. "The most efficient money to give to charity is IRA money," Wozniak says. "If you leave IRA money to relatives, they will owe a tax against it. This way, you feel like you've given a double-whammy gift and doubled what your assets are."
The couple encourage others to plan their estates, no matter how big or small, and think about leaving a legacy gift. "There are all kinds of stories about people who didn't take the time to plan and do estate planning, trusts or wills, and they pass away in an accident and the money is contested or held up in probate. It doesn't go where they wanted it to go," Wozniak says. "Estate planning helps you examine what to do with your assets. We felt very complete once we decided how to go."