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There's No Debating the Value of Planned Gifts for Sharon Semmens

Sharon Semmens

Sharon Semmens 80C 80G used two gift types to create her legacy at Emory.

As a member of Emory's Barkley Forum, one of the nation's best debate teams, Sharon Semmens 80C 80G honed her critical decision-making skills. Using that same careful deliberation to plan her estate, she has found creative ways to help sustain the Barkley Forum in perpetuity.

Semmens has made Emory a beneficiary of both her life insurance policy and retirement account. The resulting gifts will support Emory College of Arts and Sciences and help build endowments for the debate program and a student leadership award she helped establish.

"The Barkley Forum was my Emory experience," she says. "I gained an interest in and concern about what was happening in my community and at Emory."

Named for Emory alumnus and former U.S. Vice President Alben W. Barkley, the forum excels in regional and national tournaments and partners with Atlanta Public Schools to manage the Urban Debate League for at-risk youth. Semmens' planned gifts will fuel all of those efforts.

Semmens is also an advocate in the LGBT community and helped form the Emory Gay and Lesbian Alumni (GALA) group. GALA began a campaign to fund a scholarship soon after its founding in 2005, and Semmens led the effort. The GALA Leadership Award was endowed in 2010. Her gifts to the endowment will extend the reach of the scholarship, which has been awarded to five students since 2009.

For Emory College, she has planned unrestricted support. This will allow the dean to invest in priorities such as faculty recruitment and retention, greater access for talented students regardless of their financial means, spaces that enable the best work, academic programs or support services that help students thrive.

Semmens decided to use an insurance policy and retirement account to support Emory because they're simple transactions that earmark existing assets to strengthen the school she loves. Giving retirement assets can protect these assets from estate and income taxes.

She considers her gifts to be "a natural progression of my relationship with the university," she says. "This is also an opportunity for me to make a difference and lead by example."

To learn more about supporting Emory with life insurance, a retirement account or other planned giving strategies, call Emory Office of Gift Planning at 404.727.8875 or

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Emory University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Emory University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at Atlanta, GA, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Emory or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property, or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Emory as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Emory as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Emory where you agree to make a gift to Emory and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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