Why We Give

Irwin and Helgard Field: Using Real Estate to Realize Philanthropic Goals

Sometimes simple, elegant estate plans can address multilayered planning issues. With four children and six grandchildren from earlier marriages (not to mention a potential brood of great grandchildren), Irwin and Helgard Field were looking for a way to pass on their assets in a seamless and efficient way that benefits both their families and the American Technion Society (ATS).

The couple set up a residential trust, which ensures that upon the demise of one of them, their Beverly Hills condominium and all its possessions remain with the surviving spouse. When the second spouse passes on, the property will be sold, and the proceeds distributed to the ATS and another charity.

People often don’t think of non-cash assets as a means of charitable giving. The Fields’ plan does just that, while also addressing the needs of their blended family. “There’s nothing to be contested, nothing to be discussed. So, it’s a very good way of protecting the surviving spouse,” says Irwin of the trust.

Moreover, because the residential trust is separate from their estates, they can give to their children at the same time. “It’s a simple way of leaving something to the Technion that doesn’t take away from what you want to do with the rest of your estate. It makes us feel good that we have control over what we want to do.”

Irwin grew up in a Zionist home. His father, Walter, helped found the ATS Chapter in Detroit in 1942. Explaining his largesse for the ATS, he says: “Our family has been connected to the Technion for a long time. I’ve always followed the work being done there, and the people coming out of there. The research is intellectually exciting, while also having practical applications. The Technion has long been a part of my life, then it became part of my wife’s life too.”

Irwin is Chairman of Liberty Vegetable Oil Company, a business specializing in producing oil from nuts, and for the past 50 years has spent half of his time devoted to Jewish and other philanthropic causes. He recently started Technion Tuesday Talks, inviting community leaders to speak to a new generation of leaders in Los Angeles. He serves on the ATS local, national and international boards, and both he and Helgard have co-chaired major ATS events. They are also Technion Guardians—a designation reserved for those who support the Technion at the highest level. Irwin has also been the national Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal, and the first Jewish chairman of Occidental College.

Helgard, who is Swiss, is active in The Israel Museum, The National Board of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “We have our distinct organizations and our common causes,” Irwin says. “But we are very keen about education and its impact on the future. In our minds, for engineering education and entrepreneurship, the Technion is the most influential in Israel and deserves our support.”