When we sit down with an individual or family to help them with their estate plan, one of the questions I address with the client is whether the client desires to include charitable giving as part of his or her plan. In this regard, a client may make a gift of money, stocks or other investments, or some tangible property to a charitable organization after their death through their Will or through other planning tools. If you are considering charitable giving as part of your planning, here are a few things to consider.
First, think of those charitable organizations that you have supported, or hoped to support, during your lifetime, to help determine the organizations that you want to support with a gift at your death. Consider those causes close to your heart. Examples might include: churches and religious organizations, health-related organizations, organizations devoted to ending poverty, hunger, and homelessness, hospital foundations, local community foundations, and educational organizations including local school foundations and colleges. You may wish to review annual reports and financial statements of these organizations to help analyze whether they conduct their charitable activities efficiently and that most of the donations received are put to use in the mission, and not merely supporting high overhead costs of the organization. Second, as you have identified the organization or organizations you wish to support, consider how to leave assets to them – a one-time lump sum gift, or payments over time through a trust, for example. Once you’ve made these decisions, and have decided on how much you wish to give (either in terms of a specific dollar amount or as a percentage of your estate at the time of your death), you can have these wishes implemented into your estate planning documents.
From there, it is important to continue to periodically monitor your selected organizations and to carefully consider whether any subsequent changes to your planning need to be made. Some reasons why changes might be needed include a selected organization closing its doors, changing its focus or service to another endeavor or mission contrary to your goals, poor financial management at the organization resulting in ineffective use of donor funds, or more.
Contributing to charitable organizations through your estate planning can be a great way to leave a lasting legacy, and support causes near and dear to your heart. Follow the tips above to help make the process easier and to ensure your assets are used in effective ways via your estate plan.
If you need assistance with your estate plan, please contact us to discuss your goals and needs.
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