L. Ashley Brooks hasn't even reached her 40s, yet she already has an estate plan that includes a designation to CHKD's Child Abuse Program. "I'm definitely not the stereotype of a planned giver," Ashley says. But as an estate planning attorney with the Chesapeake law firm Jones, Jones & Dunn, she has a wealth of knowledge unique to her profession.
"I'm trying to change the mindset that planned giving is only for older people," she explains. "Even if you haven't accumulated a lot of assets yet, you should think about the legacy you want to leave and lay the foundation for it. Estate plans are designed to grow with you."
The legacy Ashley plans to leave will help the Child Abuse Program continue its pioneering work. Not only does she support the program philanthropically, she serves on the Child Abuse Development Board. "Our program has been a national leader in protecting children, and I'm proud to be associated with it."
A Roanoke native, Ashley also has a personal reason for adopting the cause. "There was child abuse in my family, and it would have been helpful to have a program like this one in our area. In the past, child abuse was considered a private, family affair, but I'm open about it because we need to remove the stigma and shame that victims feel."
She points to recent high-profile cases as galvanizing a national conversation around the issue. "We're all talking about it more, and that's a good thing. These children need our help so that they don't have to live their lives as wounded individuals."
As a member of the program's development board, Ashley has learned that most child abuse services provided to children and families aren't covered by insurance. To help the program's staff members "keep advocating for those who can't advocate for themselves," as she puts it, Ashley also makes an annual gift. "And including the program in my estate plan only made sense," she adds.
Donning her attorney hat again, Ashley says, "I stress to my clients that when they include a charity in their estate plans, they're not just designating resources. They're leaving a legacy. It's important not to put that off until they think they have enough assets. We're not always promised tomorrow."