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Thinking Ahead

George Barton plans his philanthropic legacy at Washburn

Over the last four decades, George Barton, jd ’77, h ’15, has established himself as a philanthropic leader at Washburn University School of Law. His journey toward an accomplished legal career began after graduation, when he started representing clients in business litigation. His love of the work and ability to come up with creative solutions to challenges prompted him to open his own firm in 1997, which today operates in Overland Park, Kansas, under the name Barton and Burrows, LLC. 

George Barton“I’ve been able to accomplish good results for the clients I’ve represented, and I’ve never shied away from continuing to pursue a case even though it can take a long time to get to the finish line,” Barton said.

He brings that same eye for creative solutions and taking the long view to his philanthropy, such as rearranging his estate plans so Washburn Law will see a major benefit from an unusual source: his retirement fund. By including the law school in his estate plan, Barton ensures his alma mater will receive ongoing support for years to come. He made Washburn a beneficiary because his legal education has been essential to his success.

Unlike traditional estate planning, the unique structure of Barton’s gift allows him to make an immediate impact. He has rearranged his IRA such that, instead of providing taxable income to himself every year, it will make an annual charitable distribution to the School of Law Dean’s Fund for Excellence, with the School of Law receiving the residual balance of the IRA after his death. In this way, Barton is really making multiple major gifts in one swoop – a steady stream of revenue year-to-year, with a substantial final payout from his estate at the end.

“Over a period of time, that will be a nice contribution to Washburn,” Barton said. “To me that’s a smarter way to do estate planning, because you can make the contribution now and have some impact right away.”

Barton has remained involved with the law school in other key ways as well. In addition to serving as a guest lecturer, he recently joined the Washburn University Foundation as a trustee and started serving on the board of directors and Investment Committee. He received the Washburn School of Law Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2011. In addition to his IRA gifts, he is a frequent major supporter of law school fundraising priorities – he was one of the first alumni, for instance, to make a significant donation to the new law school building. 

“I thought the new building was a meritorious project that would boost the law school’s prestige,” Barton said. “I was very blessed to have good law school professors, and my education helped me as I started to practice. Because of that foundation, I had confidence that I could handle virtually any type of business litigation. I hope, by paying it forward, future law students at Washburn feel just as well prepared.”

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