“In the Jewish tradition, attending to the affairs of the deceased (those who can give no thanks) is considered an act of the most true kindness. We call this chessed shel emes,” says Dallas attorney Lisa Newman.
Lisa Newman speaks gently and smiles warmly when she talks about estate planning and issues of probate law. Even though she is often taking people through an anxiety-provoking process when she meets with them to discuss their estate plans or the estate plans of their loved ones, she has a way of putting minds at ease.
“What I want people to realize is that we are really talking about life. Estate planning is an exercise in thinking about what people can accomplish while they are here and determining a legacy they can leave after they pass.”
She’s one of the most sought-after attorneys in her field because Lisa approaches the practice of law and her assistance with estate planning and probate as an exercise in chessed.
“Life is about kindness,” she says. ‘It all comes down to being kind and grateful. It’s a shame when families misunderstand or, G-d forbid, mistrust each other. When someone is engaged in end-of-life planning, they shouldn’t be plagued by anxiety or worrying what their relatives will think about their estate plan. This is a time for expansiveness and generosity. And on the other side of the equation, family members need to feel gratitude.”
Among Lisa’s specialties is helping clients translate their values into action through endowed giving. She says that estate planning is a time when families can come together and feel good about the opportunity they have to perpetuate the work of a loved one’s life through tzedaka in their name. Those who donate to their synagogue, serve on boards of directors, are passionate patrons of the arts, or enjoy volunteering with an organization like Meals on Wheels, Friends of the IDF, or the Dallas Arboretum ought to discuss their interests with their family and engage the family in their tzedaka and chessed projects all along.
“Moral education is the best gift any parent can leave their children,” she says. “And when it comes time to read the will and children see how generous their parents have been with bequests to charity there will be no surprises, only pride and gratitude for the family in which they were privileged to grow.”
She makes it clear that philanthropy is not the exclusive purview of the wealthy. Anyone can establish a fund with a modest spending policy. As the interest compounds, so does the good that can be done from the initial investment. With a spending policy of 3% per year, an endowed fund becomes a perpetual gift. When Lisa Newman puts it like that, why would anyone want to avoid thinking about their estate plan?
“I’m passionate about the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation because they are not just about their own Foundation, the Dallas, or the Jewish community. Through their donor advised funds and endowed funds the DJCF makes distributions to organizations that are close to their donor’s hearts. Many of my non-Jewish clients choose to have the DJCF manage their funds because there is such a high level of sensitivity and integrity at this Foundation. Meyer Bodoff sets the perfect tone and, as a result, professional advisors of all backgrounds send their clients to meet with him.”
Bodoff, the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s President/CEO, has equally kind words for Lisa Newman: “Her clients are blessed to have a professional advisor as wise as Lisa and our Foundation is blessed to have her wise counsel, as well. As the first Vice Chair of our Board of Trustees, Lisa’s expertise is critical to our work and she brings a depth of intelligence, insight, and sensitivity that helps to inform our decisions and further the good that we can accomplish.”