How to Donate to Charity in Your Will

Creating a Last Will and Testament allows you to decide how to distribute your assets (such as savings, investments, real estate, or personal property) after you pass away. Many people leave assets to a charity or non-profit organization. This form of donation is known as a legacy gift or planned giving. While it’s a reasonably straightforward process, there are some important actions to take when donating to charity in your Will.
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Benefits of donating to charity in your Last Will

There are many benefits of planned giving. Donating to a charity in your Will allows you to:
  • Sustain charities and impact people’s lives: Charities and non-profit organizations have limited budgets and often depend on private funding to continue doing their work.
  • Leave a personal legacy: Planned giving is an opportunity to contribute to a cause that’s meaningful to you. By leaving a donation, your memory will live on through a gift to a foundation that’s important to you.
  • Receive financial benefits: Depending on the type of gift you make, you or your estate receive certain tax advantages, such as reduced taxes on your estate.

Choosing a charity for your legacy gift

Many registered charities and nonprofit organizations have legacy giving programs. If you already have an organization in mind, it’s worth looking into the planned giving options that it offers.
If you need some help choosing a charity for your legacy gift, follow these steps:

Deciding what gift to leave

You have many options for planned giving, so it’s important to be clear in your instructions regarding your last wishes.
The most common types of legacy gifts are:
  • General gift: A specific amount of money or percentage of your estate.
  • Residuary gift: Donating any remaining assets after all other requests are fulfilled.
  • Specific gift: The donation of a particular item, such as furniture or a vehicle.
  • Contingent gift: A donation based on certain conditions being met, such as your main beneficiary passing away before you.
Many people choose to make a monetary donation to charity in their Will. However, there are other options available if you wish to leave a charitable donation after your passing.
Plenty of charities and nonprofit organizations will accept other assets as gifts, including:
  • Real estate, such as land or residential property
  • Personal property, including vehicles, artwork, antiques, or jewelry
  • Investments such as stocks and mutual funds

Updating or creating your Will

Once you’ve decided to include a legacy gift in your estate plans, you can create a Last Will and Testament or revise your existing one.
When you’re writing your Will for the first time:
  1. Decide the type of legacy gift that best suits your estate planning goals and financial position.
  2. Decide which assets (such as money or personal property) you’d like to leave to charity.
  3. Confirm your organization’s legal name, charitable registration number, and proper wording for legacy gifts. Use the exact language recommended to avoid ambiguity in your Will.
  4. When you create your Last Will, designate your charity as a beneficiary of your assets and assign them a gift.
  5. Name an alternate beneficiary for your legacy gift in case your chosen foundation no longer exists when you pass away.
  6. Let your charity know that you’ve thought of them in your estate plans. Charities often take the opportunity to thank donors in various ways.
If you already have a Last Will:
  • If you’re changing your main beneficiary or making a major change to the distribution of your assets, it’s a good idea to create a new Last Will. Follow the directions provided above for including a legacy gift in your new Will.
  • If you’re adding a charity as a beneficiary, you can amend or change your Last Will with a Codicil.
  • If you do not wish to make any changes to your Will, you can ask your family and friends in your End-of-Life Plan to send their condolences by donating to your favorite charity instead of sending flowers.

What's next?

Once you’ve completed the necessary steps in planning your charitable donation, inform your executor. They should know about the details regarding the charity and the gift you’ve chosen to leave.
The survival of charities and nonprofit organizations often depends on donations. While many people give to charities during their lifetime, leaving a gift in your Last Will is an honorable way to make a lasting impact.
Leave your legacy
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