Charitable Bequests: Planning Your Legacy Through Your Will

| Scott Barbur, Barbur Law

There are a million reasons to give to charity, and perhaps even more worthwhile causes to support. Maybe you have always made donations to your alma mater, your church, or the local animal shelter. Many of us give actively in our lifetime, but never spend time thinking about giving after we’ve passed, or what that would even look like. Death is morbid, but moving the conversation away from this fear of the unknown, and instead, toward the future impact you’d like to make, can have an enormous lasting legacy for a nonprofit near and dear to your heart. What’s more, your will can simply and effectively help you achieve such a legacy.

Your will reflects your core values; it captures the people and things most meaningful to you. In making decisions about what you will do with your most treasured items and a lifetime of earnings, people often end up with a deeper understanding of themselves. In the estate planning process, the goal is to answer the question: what matters most and why? It’s a good question to ask ourselves, particularly when it comes to charity.

Once you have decided that you want charitable giving to be included in your plans, the easiest and most straightforward way is to make a charitable bequest in your will, by allocating a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your estate to your charity of choice. After documenting your wishes, it’s time to decide if you want to share the news. Many nonprofit organizations have legacy societies to honor future gifts during the lifetime of the donor. For folks who want this acknowledgment, it can be very rewarding to be thanked publicly, attend special events with like-minded philanthropists, or even participate in the planning for the future funds. For others, keeping quiet about your legacy is preferred, and just knowing that you’re going to have a future impact is reward enough.

Beyond writing a charitable bequest in your will, it’s worth noting that there are several ways to incorporate charitable giving into your estate plan, and many offer strategies for tax benefits, which should be discussed with your financial advisor for guidance. No matter the motivation for planning a legacy gift, philanthropy can be both financially beneficial and personally fulfilling.

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