Walker and Sallie Sydnor map out their key priorities in their estate plan
Voicing their commitment to continued first-class healthcare in Central Virginia, Walker and Sallie Sydnor have left a gift by will to the Centra Foundation as part of their estate plan.
“When you think of living in Central Virginia – the natural beauty, the four seasons, the great people, the excellent healthcare system…the overall quality of life is very high,” said Walker, retired president of Scott Insurance. “Centra offers a total healthcare system that covers the circle of life, and anything that we can do to support its quality care is a wise investment.”
The Sydnors, both 71, developed their estate plan while in their 50s. Working with their financial advisor, Walker applied his strategic planning skills that helped build a regional, employee-owned insurance firm into the second largest independently owned insurance agency in the Southeast.
A life insurance policy on the couple will provide an inheritance to their three children, Curt, Brantley, and Giles. The couple’s investment assets will go to the community—50 percent directly gifted to Centra and other named institutions, and 50 percent to a donor-advised fund held at the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, the proceeds of which will be distributed by their children to charities of their choice on an annual basis.
“Many people are uncomfortable with the concept of death and estate planning, but we believe it is an important thing to do,” said Walker. “I prefer not to leave things to chance. Figure out your priorities and map it out as best as you can with the help of a financial advisor.
“After we finalized the plan, we all went to the beach and had a family meeting where the plan was unveiled. The kids were enthusiastic and it was an uplifting experience, so much better than trying to resolve matters like this in an emotional moment.”
Reason for giving
Walker, who served on the Centra Board many years as a member and eventually as chair, stepped off the board three years ago. While he was chair, Centra expanded in many areas including the completion of the Centra Alan B. Pearson Regional Cancer Center, the 100 percent purchase of Piedmont Health Insurance and Centra Bedford Memorial Hospital, and the expansion of Centra Medical Group’s network of providers, including the building of new facilities throughout Central and Southside Virginia.
The couple points to the excellent care they have received from Centra as a major contributing factor to their gift. “Our three children were born at Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital, and we have received top notch care from the Centra Medical Group primary care and specialty physicians, as well as from practices outside the Centra network,” Walker said.
Sallie noted, “At Walker’s retirement, we considered other living options, but always came back to the excellent medical care in this region. It would be hard to leave.”
The couple’s service and philanthropy over the years has been a true gift. In addition to having contributed to the Centra Foundation’s campaigns for the cancer center and the Rosemary & George Dawson Inn, they support the annual fund. Walker was also the former board chair of the University of Lynchburg (then Lynchburg College) Board of Trustees, and was a former campaign chair for the United Way.
Sallie has applied her artistic talents to brighten the lives of Centra patients. Known for her work in oils and mixed media in still life, landscape and portraiture, she collaborated with local artist Claudia Stubstad to paint the grand piano located in the lobby of the Centra Alan B. Pearson Regional Cancer Center, after which she painted the upright piano under the donor wall at Centra Lynchburg General Hospital.
In the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker believes planning ahead can give each of us some control of the future.
“The pandemic has thrown many lives into disorder and shown the extent that random and uncontrollable forces can impact us,” he said.
“The lesson to me is that we should pay special attention to things that we can plan, realizing that random events will always be with us. Included in the list of plannable items are medical directives, wills, and estate plans for those with assets. If one cares about certain institutions and charities, including them in your plan is a tremendous way to memorialize your feelings and help the institutions. [AB1] The exact details and amounts can be flexible, but the overall plan will be of great help to everyone involved.”