Death, taxes, and breakfast

by R. Benjamin Johnston

Morris Herald-News

January 11, 2016


The coffee was warm, the food simple but good, and as always the company exceptional.

The group had been having breakfast this way for years. Sometimes there would be more of them, sometimes less; the size of the group at any one day depended on both family and business obligations.

Sometimes they got along, sometimes they didn’t.

But all shared similar values regarding their families and their communities.

“I’m not sure what to do with that property I picked up 25 years ago. I got it dirt cheap. No one wanted it back then. No one saw what I saw with it,” one said.

“So what’s the problem? We’d all like that kind of problem,” was the retort.

“The problem is I don’t really feel like paying a boatload of taxes if I sell it. My kids are pretty successful. And when I die, I still pay a ton of taxes on it,” he said, taking another sip of coffee and unintentionally sharply stabbing at the eggs.

Each stab was unintentionally coordinated every time the word “taxes” was said.

“You’re going to be dead. Who cares? Besides, we all know that you’re too much of a pain in the backside to die. God would find you annoying. The devil would be concerned you’d take him for all he’s worth,” the other said in response, speaking with the kind of grin associated with good-natured needling. “You’re destined to wander the earth as a ghost making the rest of us miserable, figuring out more ways to make money.”

In addition to the fork stabbing harder at the eggs, this time the knife was used to cut into the eggs.

As the eggs were scrambled, it wasn’t really necessary.

“You know, there’s a reason your spouse encourages you to get out of the house more often. Anyway, you know how I feel about death and taxes. One I can’t avoid, the other, well, let’s just say, if it’s legal, and there’s a way, I’m all for paying as little as possible.”

While the two continued to entertain the rest of the group, a third chimed in.

Although thoroughly enjoying the exchange, and not averse to stirring things up by throwing a little gas on the fire, this time the person decided to pass along a little bit of information, even though it may put an end to the group’s entertainment.

“I got three words for you. And they aren’t, ‘You’re a yutz,’ ” proving that Yiddish has an appropriate word for every occasion.

“Try these three words: Charitable remainder trust. It allows you to give something to that one charity that still tolerates you, give something back to this community which despite your Grinch-like nature I know you still care about, and most importantly, get an income for the rest of your life and pay less taxes.”

The fork stopped stabbing at the eggs.

The knife was put down.

A sip was taken from the cup of coffee. “Tell me more about this charitable remainder trust.”

A charitable remainder trust is a great way to use assets to provide annual payments to yourself or loved ones with the remaining amount going to a fund at the Community Foundation of Grundy County to support the causes you care about … forever.

Want to learn more? Visit or call the Community Foundation of Grundy County at 815-941-0852.

• Robert Benjamin Johnston is the vice president of the Community Foundation of Grundy County.