Major Donation for Restoration of Historic Robert E. Lee Property Fills Funding Need

Law Firm Newswire



Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) August 25, 2014 – Businessman’s $12.3 million gift for Arlington House fixes offers a lesson on estate planning.

On July 17, billionaire and history buff David Rubenstein announced that he would be contributing $12.3 million toward the restoration of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s home in Arlington, Virginia. The multimillion-dollar gift will restore Lee’s plantation site, which has been in need of major repairs, to its historical appearance.

Charitable contributions like Rubenstein’s often make historic preservation projects and national park maintenance possible. Frequently, these projects struggle during times when government funds are strained. Such contributions also provide a tax benefit for the donor.“The Rubenstein gift is a generous contribution toward restoring a key element of the nation’s history,” said Lisa McDevitt, a well-known Fairfax, Virginia estate-planning attorney. “It is also an example of how a person, through a charitable donation, can execute sound estate-planning.”

Rubenstein, who co-founded The Carlyle Group, is donating the funds to the National Park Foundation to fully restore Arlington House, its grounds and slave quarters to their 1860 appearance, when the former general of the Confederate Army resided there.

“Federal tax law permits a donor to deduct the cash equivalent of a contribution to charity up to 50 percent of his or her annual income, and any amount not deducted in the year of the contribution can be spread out over the succeeding five years,” McDevitt said. “The beautiful thing about this process is that a donor sees the positive impact of a charitable contribution during his or her lifetime, both on society and on his or her taxes.”

The hilltop site, which overlooks the nation’s capital and is set beside Arlington National Cemetery, was originally built between 1802 and 1818 as a monument to George Washington by his step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis.

At the inception of the Civil War, Lee resigned from the Union Army and joined the Confederacy, largely out of loyalty to his native Virginia, which had seceded from the Union. But Union troops captured Arlington House and made it their military headquarters. The site served as an important redoubt in Washington against Confederate advances from Virginia, and the Union Army began burying dead soldiers on the grounds, partly to discourage Lee from returning. The burial grounds eventually became Arlington National Cemetery.

Exhibits at a museum near the 200-year-old house are in poor condition and have not been updated in nearly 30 years, and part of Rubenstein’s donation will be earmarked to refresh them. The costs for necessary repairs at the Arlington House site are part of an $11 billion backlog of maintenance expenses throughout the U.S. National Park system — a backlog that cannot be met by government appropriations alone.

In recent years, Rubenstein has also made sizable cash donations toward the restoration of the Washington Monument, Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

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