“Helping Chicago Harris give out more fellowships or help students in any other way—that would make me happy,” says Irma Wirawan, MPP’03.

Never too early

Personal experiences prompted Irma Wirawan to make estate plans

At 37 years old, Irma Wirawan, MPP’03, has drawn up a will and made estate arrangements, which include a bequest to the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. She was always told that when you get a “real job” with benefits and retirement, you do estate planning. “I thought that was the responsible thing to do,” says Wirawan.

Yet it was hard to recognize when that moment had come. A senior financial analyst at NORC, a social science research organization affiliated with UChicago, she works with project directors to manage budgets for large-scale surveys and research grants. She also works on business development proposals. Wirawan had the career and adult responsibilities, and she was at a stage when financial advisers recommend estate planning. But like many people, it took a family scare and a tragedy to motivate her to finally visit a law firm.

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wirawan moved to the United States to attend college at the University of Michigan, eventually becoming a permanent resident while her parents remained in Indonesia. While she was away, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to early detection, his prognosis was optimistic and treatment successful, but, Wirawan says,  “I think it scared him enough to put his wishes in writing.” She flew home to help her parents make arrangements.

In America, when someone dies and leaves no will, the estate goes into probate. With her parents (and next of kin) living overseas, Wirawan knew the process would be exceedingly difficult. Between her father’s illness, her growing concern about legal bureaucracy, and then the unexpected early death of her cousin-in-law, she was ready to make her plans official.

Wirawan gives to UChicago annually to help meet the University’s immediate needs. But she wanted to make a more substantial gift and had noticed local nonprofits like the Lyric Opera promoting the benefits of making a bequest. She also spotted advertisements for estate planning in the University of Chicago Magazine and decided to designate Chicago Harris as a partial beneficiary.

“I would like more people to have the opportunity to do public service and give back to the community,” says Wirawan. “I was lucky enough not to incur student debt, but the situation is different these days. So helping Chicago Harris give out more fellowships or help students in any other way—that would make me happy.”

Life is filled with difficult decisions. Estate planning turned out to be one of the easier ones, says Wirawan, and she’s glad to have one less thing to worry about.