People occasionally ask what they could do in their estate plan to, in some small way, acknowledge a friend or someone who has touched their life. Former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, who died earlier this year at 83, is treating his former players to dinner. The Hall of Famer left instructions for his estate to send $200 to each of his varsity lettermen so they could have a meal compliments of him.

The estate trustee, put about 180 checks in the mail this week. Each comes with a letter that ends with “please enjoy your dinner out.”  Now certainly these checks won't have a big impact on many of these current and former athletes, whose ranks include billionaire Michael Jordan, but the fact he remembered them in some small way certainly will.

Dean Smith

Dean Smith

Here are some other creative bequests that have impacted people:

A Big Tipper

When Aaron Collins a Kentucky resident who died just three weeks after his 30th birthday, his family found a will that he left on his computer.  Aaron didn’t want a funeral.  What he did want, however, was to pay back any debts he owed his parents, to make sure his motorcycle and art were disposed of as he wished and to direct his family to “leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 25%. I mean $500 on a pizza).”

Aaron Collins

Aaron Collins

So that’s exactly what Aaron’s brother Seth did.  Seth started a Facebook page, “Aaron’s Last Wish,” in which he asked for donations to make Aaron’s dream come true.  Once the family received $500 in donations, they planned to go out to dinner and present a $500 tip to a waiter or waitress.  

By the next day, they had amassed enough donations, and after dinner at Puccini’s restaurant in Lexington, Ky., the family called their waitress over and handed her $500. Less than a week after the first online posting for donations, the family had over $10,000—enough to tip 23 waiters or waitresses at $500 a pop.

Aaron’s wish went viral, raising hundreds of thousands.  Some donations come from family.  Some come from friends. Some come from strangers.  And some come anonymously.  Seth and his family plan to tip waiters or waitresses $500 each, once a week, until the money runs out.

From the looks of it, Aaron’s generous tipping philosophy may continue indefinitely.  Seth’s promise is that, “If we continue to receive money, we will continue giving these gifts randomly, so that in his death he can touch the lives of many more people than he had even dreamed of doing in life.”

A Purr-fect Bequest

Daniel J. Garr of Santa Cruz, California was a 67-year-old professor in the Urban Planning Department at San Jose State University.  He was an avid animal lover, particularly of dogs and cats.  And he showed that love through a bequest he made after he passed away on Jan. 11, 2011.  In his will, Garr left $50,000 to an all-volunteer feral cat advocacy organization.  

The year Garr passed away, the effects of the poor economy had taken a toll on Watsonville, Calif.’s East Lake Animal Clinic, which was running at a deficit.  And that meant that stray cats were running wild, as it became difficult for the clinic to continue spaying and neutering feral cats in the community.  To many—and obviously, to Garr—spaying and neutering is a process that reduces the feral cat population in a humane manner, saves money and resources and allows shelter employees to focus on promoting adoption of its animals.  

Daniel Garr’s generous gift leaves a lasting legacy of love to our community and to feral cats and kittens.