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  • Writer's pictureJenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea

Current Trends - Indianapolis Man Leaves Hefty Estate to Charities - Episode 128

Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another Legal Tea episode today, episode one hundred and twenty eight! Today’s episode is a “current trends” episode where we talk about things going on currently that is relevant and pertinent to my estate and elder law world, and/or maybe things I’ve seen on the news or stumbled across on social media that are also relevant to my estate/elder law world. Well, on today’s “current trends” episode, we’re going to chat about a story that was something local-to-me (in Indiana), but national news picked it up … it’s about a gentleman that passed away and left his estate at the hands of an attorney, who served as the executor, to distribute out his hefty estate to various charitable organizations. So, let’s dive in!

Meet Terence Kahn. Terence is in legal name, but he informally went by Terry. Well, Terry, according to a CBS News article, “lived in a modest house in south Indianapolis. He drove an old Honda and refused to carry a cellphone because he said they cost too much. Even when he died in 2021, he wanted no announcement, because who would spend good money on an obituary? The man was pennywise, but pound generous.” That last sentence is probably the best way to summarize this episode – pennywise, but pound generous. As an Indianapolis Monthly shares, Terry never married and never had any children. He had one sibling, who died in her 40s.

Also, meet Dwayne Isaacs. Dwayne is an attorney, currently at Dentons in Indianapolis, and on the webpage for his bio, it shows he does a lot of trust and estate planning. Now, you see, Terry and Dwayne, according to an Indianapolis Monthly article on this story, they met in the 1990s through The Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis. Terry was a founding Board Member and Dwane was the Foundation’s attorney. Professionally-speaking, Terry, in his service as a Board Member for the Foundation, represented Roudebush VA Medical Center, which he was the Chief of Human Resources.

Well, during his service as a Board Member, Terry met Betty Wilson, who was then-CEO of the Foundation, said Terry was “always kind, in a curmudgeonly way” and that Terry would appear to be the kind that “doesn’t have two nickel to rub together.” How funny is that – but it’s so true! In my experience as an estate and elder law attorney, I constantly witness this take place. It really is quite fascinating how people outwardly/physically appear and what kind of money and assets they have. Anyway, so back to Terry – well, Terry served on the Board for the Foundation from the mid-1990s to 2010, which is when Terry stopped being on the Board. Dwayne admitted that he thought his communication with Terry would fizzle, but instead, Terry reached out and asked him to grab lunch. As the Indianapolis Month article mentions, “Kahn called every month for the next 10 years, and two became regular lunch companions.”

At one of those lunches, Terry shared with Dwayne that he wanted a “simple Will” and wanted his Estate to support charitable organizations that help kids and teachers. Dwayne attempted to push Terry to support organizations while he was alive, but anything left at Terry’s passing, Dwayne further attempted to push Terry into naming specific beneficiaries. Though, when pushed, Terry would be super noncommittal and say, “I don’t care. You decide. I’ll be dead.” Dwayne agreed to be the one that would help “take the baton” and as a Co-Executor of Terry’s Will likely, as the Indianapolis Monthly article mentions, Dwayne may have been among the closest to Terry. Not to mention, Dwayne did this sort of estate planning for a living anyway. Terry wanted Dwayne and another close friend of his, Vance McLarren, to serve as Executors – and it’s clear, by the Indianapolis Monthly article, that Terry really respected his friendships with Dwayne and Vance.

Terry eventually started having health issues. He developed non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, which ultimately lead to his death on January 31, 2021. He died at the age of 78 and unfortunately, spent many of his last days and weeks under medical care through the Covid pandemic – which meant many of his days and weeks were alone due to restrictions on visitors and such. It was not until after Terry passed away when Dwayne and Vance learned of Terry’s $13 Million fortune. Funny enough, at a lunch, Terry told Dwayne he had “about 3 or 4 million.” So, when Dwayne learned of the TRUE value, the Indianapolis Monthly article shares that Dwayne said, “Dammit, Terry. Why weren’t you honest with me?” That made me laugh!

Well, at this point, Dwayne, Vance, and their wives started working through and cleaning out Terry’s house. The Indianapolis Monthly article states, “It looked as if time stood still in the 1970s-era home. Most of the furniture and decor were original. The closets, drawers, and storage space were packed to the gills with random surplus items, such as 20 brand-new boxcutters or 100 toothbrushes. They also found Kahn’s Army uniform, medals, and the letters of commendation he earned, along with his USC letterman’s jacket and photos from long ago. They were personal things that speak to the man, things a family member would have found value in keeping. Kahn, however, had no close relatives. McLarren recalls thinking Kahn “had all this wealth and no one to share it with. At the end of the day, it goes into a dumpster.” 

Now, shifting to the money, as Terry mentioned to Dwayne, he basically left it totally up to Dwayne and Vance to decide charitable organizations and how much. Since 1) I’m in Indiana and 2) an attorney, I did some behind-the-scenes peaking and found Terry’s Will filed with the Court (which is public record – it’s just hard to get to!). Anyway, his Will says that Dwayne and Vance are to pick out the charitable organizations, but because he was always thinking, he gave them some parameters in finding organizations. Those parameters were:

1.     Emphasis on serving Central Indiana;

2.     Emphasis on funds going directly to the benefit of those that the charity serves with a minimal amount being spent on administrative costs;

3.     Emphasis on projects or matters that support multiple beneficiaries over a period of time rather than a group being served as a one-time project;

4.     Emphasis on education, particularly for grade levels up to and inc. 5th grade;

5.     Emphasis should be based on need without an emphasis on gender or race

It makes you wonder what was in the back of his mind with some of these, right? Well, as the Indianapolis Monthly article shares, Dawyne and Vance had quite the job to come up with organizations that fulfilled Terry’s goals and intentions. They chose to distribute gifts in the amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2,000,000 to several nonprofits. One of those organizations, and Dwayne’s very first call, was Coburn Place, which “provides transitional housing and assistance to families impacted my domestic violence.” The gift they received helped them, among other things, repair their building that was falling apart – i.e. two elevators were broken down and their 35 year old HVAC had needed replaced.

Another call that Dwayne made was to Teacher’s Treasures, which, according to their website, describes themselves as “helping teachers help kids since 2000.” They, too, picked up Dwayne’s call at a time they were severely needing help – and Terry’s estate was there to rescue them. I looked at their website (to check them out, honestly) and they have an incredibly nice “message of gratitude” to Terry on the front page of their website. His impact and legacy lives on! Another example of a call and charitable organization that received a gift was Folds of Honor, which is an organization that “provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of military members who have fallen or been disabled while serving in the United States Armed Forces” according to their website. Prior to Terry’s gift, the largest donation they ever received was $50,000; well, with Terry’s estate gift, they are able to “fund 10 scholarship a year in perpetuity” (according to the Indianapolis Monthly article). Amazing!These feel-good stories continue – I could make this episode longer sharing about all the cool things that his estate was able to do for local organizations. To mention some of their names for awareness purposes, they are: Indiana University Foundation (which started the Terence P. Kahn Liver Disease Program of Excellence); Rocky Mountain Adventist Healthcare Foundation; Baxter YMCA (which was the YMCA right down the road from where Terry lived); Little Red Door Cancer Agency, Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, HVAF of Indiana, Pathway to Recovery (which I have a friend that is on the Board for them!), and The Advancement Center for Washington Township Schools and North Central Alumni. All of their feel-good stories that have amazing outcomes … that will impact those they impact for years, decades, and sometimes, forever.

This story, even though I heard about it weeks ago, still gives me chills. What an absolutely amazing story. If you haven’t heard of this story, I hope it struck you like it struck me – and if you have heard about this, I hope you learned something you hadn’t heard before. Many of the articles I read a couple weeks ago really focused on the organizations, but I found the Indianapolis Monthly article (that I repeatedly referenced) did a wonderful job of not only sharing about the organizations and the impact of the gifts, but also about Terry, as a person, as a human, as a friend to Dwayne and Vance. I encourage you to read their article honestly because there was a lot I didn’t mention here for time-sake that I really would have loved to mention. There were some quips about Terry as a person that made me giggle. So, yeah, I really encourage you to read their article. It was beautifully done – called “One in a Million” by Mary Milz.

Alrighty, let’s wrap this episode up, shall we? Next week, we’re back to the “celebrity estate planning” type of episode – and during those types of episodes, we dive into a celebrity or “big name” person that has passed away and how their estate looked from an estate planning perspective. Next week’s clue is “Come on down, you’re the next contestant on the Price is Right” – would the really, truly belong to anyone besides Bob Barker? The answer is no! So, during that episode, we are going to dive into what happened estate-wise following the passing of our Price is Right friend, Bob Baker. Alrighty, Legal Tea Listeners, talk to you next week and stay well!


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