SAN DIEGO – The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, an organization which has been helping people put their charitable vision into action, announced two new directors last month. One of the directors is Louis A. Mezzullo, a consulting partner at Withers Bergman LLP.
“What I hope to accomplish as a director is to increase the visibility of the foundation among the estate planning community, which not only includes attorneys but also CPAs, financial planners, and trust officers,” he told the Northern California Record.
Mezzullo practices taxation, estate and business succession planning, and employee benefit planning in the Withers Bergman firm. He believes his background in estate planning will help him serve the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation in many ways, including reaching out and fostering relationships with estate planning professionals.
“Many people that are charitably inclined, in addition to making current contributions, include charitable organizations in their estate plans. I can help the foundation to develop relationships with people who do what I do so that they can be familiar with what the foundation does. That way, they can encourage their clients, if they are so motivated, to make gifts to the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation as part of their estate plan.”
Reaching out to those in his profession is not the only thing Mezzullo wants to accomplish. He hopes to assist the foundation in helping those less fortunate in the San Diego and North County communities.
“While many people in San Diego are fairly well off, there are still people in our community who need help and so that’s one focus.”
One area of the community which Mezzullo believes is in need of help is the homeless, which has spiked in the last year and has placed San Diego as the fourth-largest in the U.S. for homeless persons behind Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City. Death among the homeless has also risen. Mezzullo believes the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation can help these people.
Giving back to the community is something that he takes to heart and is not only a passion for Mezzullo, but also for his wife Judi.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have lived a very comfortable life. I’m not a billionaire or anything like that, but I have a nice home in a nice community. Judi and I have been married for over 46 years, and, although we do not have any children, we do have a very nice cat, Petey. My wife is also very active in charitable organizations, particularly in Scripps Hospital Encinitas. She has been very active in fund raising for that organization. Judi, who paints portraits of pets, often offers portraits of pets to charitable organizations as an auction item.”
Serving the community is part of the reason why Mezzullo chose to be a lawyer.
“I wanted to be a lawyer since third grade. My father was trained as a lawyer, although he actually was in insurance business for most of his career. I thought that the practice of law was a great way to spend my life because I feel that the rule of law is important for the health of our democracy and lawyers are very important for making sure that the rule of law prevails. For example, lawyers have been important in protecting the civil rights of minorities, which I think is an important reason our country is successful.”
As an example of this belief, Mezzullo established a task force on diversity while serving as president of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He wanted the college to increase its diversity participation and wanted to encourage minorities to enter the estate planning field.
Aside from serving as president of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, Mezzullo has had a prolific career. He was on the faculty of the University of Miami School of Law graduate program in estate planning from 2004 to 2007 and was on the faculty of the University of San Diego School of Law in 2009. He was also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Richmond Law School from 1978 until 2006.
He has been listed in Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in Emerging Leaders and Who’s Who in America by Marquis Who's Who Publishers and in The Best Lawyers in America for Tax, Employee Benefits and Trust and Estates by Woodward/White Publishers. Mezzullo was also listed as one of the top 50 Lawyers in the 2013 edition of the San Diego Super Lawyers and in the Top Attorneys in Business Services in the Corporate Counsel Edition of Super Lawyers.
He is also ranked in the top category for wealth management in the Western Region by Chambers, USA and is the author and writer of more than 14 books and 90 articles, and has made more than 100 speaking appearances across the nation.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1944, he received his juris doctor degree from the University of Richmond Law School in 1976 as well as receiving the gold medal for best student in graduating class. He also received a Bachelor of Arts with high honors in 1967 and Master of Arts in 1976 from the University of Maryland. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa.
You can find more about Mezzullo at the Withers Bergman website.
As a community foundation, the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation is uniquely positioned with expertise in local and regional community issues. RSF Foundation assists many donors with making greater impact with their philanthropy through donor advised funds, legacy funds for planned giving and trustworthy advice for local giving opportunities.
“We are approaching about a $100 million dollars in total assets,” Mezzullo said. “Most of the assets are in what is called donor-advised funds. A person can make a contribution to the foundation that is kept in a separate fund and then they can advise the foundation how distribute the funds. The foundations normally will carry out their desires.”