When Helen Jacobs Wells dies on Christmas Eve, 1954, she left a bequest of over $1 million to build a permanent facility for an art museum in Birmingham. She expressed her desire to nourish an interest in the fine arts among the people of Birmingham and to establish a fitting memorial to her beloved husband, Oscar. Today, The Oscar Wells Memorial Building is the core of the Birmingham Museum of Art’s 180,000 square feet of gallery space.
Orphaned at the age of three, Oscar Wells worked his way up from assistant cashier at the Wells Banking company and eventually become President and Chairman of the Board of First National Bank of Birmingham, Alabama’s largest bank at the time. In her will, Helen Wells specifically stated that only the building should be named in memory of her husband. By doing so, she anticipated that the Oscar Wells Memorial Building would inspire others to make similar gifts, so that in the course of time Birmingham would have one of the greatest museums in the nation.
The Birmingham Museum of Art has established The Wells Society to recognize those who, like Oscar and Helen Wells, have included the Museum in their estate plans. The thoughtfulness and generosity of Wells Society members help to ensure that the Museum will continue to collect, preserve and exhibit works of art and provide educational programs and services to future generations.
Membership in the Wells Society is open to all those who have made a planned gift to the Museum, regardless of amount. Gifts may be designated for a particular purpose or may be unrestricted and applied to the area of greatest need.
You may choose any of the following estate planning vehicles in making your gift:
• Bequests – You may include the Museum in your will for a specific dollar amount, percentage of your total estate, or the residuum remaining after all expenses and specific bequests have been paid. You also may make specific bequests of art objects or other property. A bequest gift may be made by writing an entirely new will or by adding a codicil to your existing will.
• Life Income Gifts – You may establish a charitable remainder trust naming the Museum as the remainder beneficiary. The trust pays income to you and/or another beneficiary for life. At the death of the survivor beneficiary the trust is dissolved and the assets pass to the Museum. A charitable remainder trust can provide you will income tax and capital gains tax benefits, and can reduce your estate tax at the time of your death.
• Charitable Lead Trust – A charitable lead trust pays income to the Museum for a period of years, after which the trust is dissolved and the principal passes to your heirs. While there is no income tax benefit for establishing a charitable lead trust, this gift plan can substantially reduce the cost of passing your estate to your children or grandchildren.
• Life Insurance – You may wish to make a gift of an existing policy or take out a new policy naming the Museum as owner and beneficiary. You receive a current income tax deduction for a gift of an existing policy. Whether the policy is new or previously existing, any additional premium payments are also tax deductible.
If you have already included the Birmingham Museum of Art in your estate plans, we hope that you will become a member of the Wells Society. If you have not yet included the Museum in your estate plans, talk with your estate planning professional to determine the vehicle that is best for you and your family. For more information about the Wells Society, please contact Kate Cleveland, Director of Development at 205.297.8214. Thank you!