A Quiet Admirer of Public Lands Leaves a Remarkable Legacy

Texas green jay bird

Photo by Rita Jo Poe

Rita Jo Poe spent the latter years of her life crisscrossing the western US in her Airstream trailer. A nature lover and accomplished photographer, Rita dedicated her final years to living among the iconic landscapes and wildlife of America’s national and state parks and wildlife refuges. Now, Rita’s love of wild things and wild places is memorialized through an astonishing legacy. When Rita passed away in 2015, she gifted in her will more than $800,000 to 12 different public lands, including three state parks in Texas.

A private person, Rita seemed most happy surrounded by nature, says her estate executor, Nancy Zingheim. Nancy managed the Washington RV park where Rita spent the last few months of her life. Though she did not know Rita well, Nancy dedicated herself to fulfilling the astonishing act of generosity that Rita laid out in her will. Following Rita’s passing, Nancy embarked on a 4,000-mile journey across the US to visit many of the locations Rita had named in her will. Nancy said, “I wanted the money to go to what Rita would have wanted.”

One of Rita’s passions was birding, illustrated by the treasure trove of exquisite photographs taken with several high-end cameras she owned. Rita’s pursuit of birding brought her to Texas during the winter months. Three Texas state parks known for being top destinations for bird lovers — Choke Canyon, Hueco Tanks and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley — are beneficiaries of Rita’s will. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) is working closely with all three parks to identify projects that will significantly enhance bird habitat and viewing opportunities for other like-minded visitors at these locations. One project, at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, has already been completed.

“People who love parks and public lands across the West will benefit from Rita Jo Poe’s generosity for generations to come,” said TPWF Executive Director Anne Brown. “We are grateful for the gift and hope others will emulate her legacy gift.”

Learn more about how to leave a wild legacy for Texas.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

I bequeath $ _____________ or _____% of my residuary estate to Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas (dba Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation), a not-for-profit organization, with its principal office located at 2914 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204, and with a tax identification number 74-2602504, for its ongoing conservation, education and recreation purposes.

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

donor-advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to TPWF or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare, commercial property, farm, ranch or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to TPWF as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to TPWF as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and TPWF where you agree to make a gift to TPWF and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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