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Legacy: Donating after death

Five non-profit organizations around River Falls and Hudson are thanking Cletus "Clete" Henriksen after they received large donations from him at the end of July.

The odd part is that Henriksen, an active member in the community, died Jan. 11.

Rather than leave all his estate to family, he decided to donate most of it to non-profits, including the River Falls Area Hospital, River Falls Area Ambulance Service, River Falls Public Library, UW-River Falls Foundation and St. Croix Animal Friends in Hudson.

Married in 1950 to his wife Viola, Henriksen had no children. He did have seven nieces and nephews to whom he left part of his estate. But the rest of it went to the local organizations.

"Thirty-two thousand (dollars) went to each one," said Alan Stewart of River Falls, a longtime friend of Henriksen and one of the estate executors.

Giving to his family and local organizations wasn't all Henriksen did.

He also gave money to the Wisconsin Lions Foundation and international groups like the Salvation Army, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society. Other than those, he donated to Ezekiel Lutheran Church and the church he grew up with in Oregon, Wis.

The amount Henriksen left totaled over $600,000, including what he left for his nieces and nephews, Stewart said.

Where did he get it all from?

He worked as the business manager at UW-River Falls until his retirement in 1983, but that was a small part. Mostly, he saved and invested.

"He invested very conservatively," Stewart said. "It was very, very safe, but over a period of 30-some years it adds up."

Stewart said Henriksen had been investing little bits here and there since the 1970s.

The investment wasn't for his own gain.

"He was generous in life, too," Stewart said. "That's just the kind of guy he was."

Jennifer O'Neill of River Falls, an attorney at Lommen Abdo in Hudson who specializes in estate planning, said most people assume planned giving (donating part of one's estate) is only something the wealthy can do.

"Most people don't consider themselves to be rich, so they don't even think about it," she said.

However, O'Neill said even people with children and families can set aside something to give. She also talked about some benefits. Planned giving is a way to donate a more substantial amount, she said.

"You need to keep your assets and money during your life."

She also said the giving helps support programs that benefit the community.

"For smaller organizations, having a big chunk like this will enable them to do something special that they normally wouldn't be able to do."

O'Neill explained that since the organizations serve the community, giving to them means giving to the community.

"Everyone will benefit," she said.

O'Neill suggested people should consider planned giving, but she also said it's ultimately an individual choice.

"Everybody has control over their estate," she said. "There's no right or wrong way to do it."