Why Not Include Charitable Bequest in Estate Plan?

Tags: Federation, Philanthropy

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Matthew A. Kaliff | SPECIAL TO THE CJN

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

Americans are a generous bunch, with 60% giving to charity annually according to many surveys. The Jewish community donates at even higher rates. However, fewer than 10% of wills and estate plans include a charitable bequest. Let’s consider some reasons people might have for this disconnect.

I give annually. Terrific. Regular giving is the lifeblood that lets charitable organizations keep their doors open. But a bequest can help ensure that your support continues uninterrupted long after you’re gone.

I don’t want publicity. Most nonprofits publish legacy donors as a way of saying thank you and to inspire others to do the same. If you’re not the kind of person who wants to draw attention to your generosity, you can always tell the charity you wish to remain anonymous.

I’m too young for a legacy gift. It’s never too early to plan ahead. Any person, no matter their age, can identify the causes and organizations they wish their assets to support after they are gone.

I will need a lawyer. There are many legacy gift options that don’t require an attorney. Consider naming your favorite nonprofit as a beneficiary of a portion of your retirement fund, brokerage account or life insurance policy. This can often be done online or by signing a form. You can even revise such designations if you later change your mind. Still, it is highly advisable to work with an attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan.

I won’t get to decide what happens to my gift. You can stipulate how the recipient organization uses your bequest, such as specifying it support a particular program or establish a designated fund. Nonprofit organizations have ethical and legal obligations to honor donor intent. That said, you don’t have to restrict your gift; in fact, general funding is usually what a nonprofit most needs.

If the organization dissolves, so will my money. It’s impossible to predict where any of us will be in 10, 20 or certainly 50 years. If you are worried that your favorite organization might not be around in the future, you can direct your bequest go to an alternate organization or to a general cause (Jewish education, seniors, etc.).

My children come first. Every parent wants to make sure their children are taken care of. Consider leaving just a portion of your estate to charitable causes. You will not only provide for your children, but you’ll also convey a powerful statement about your charitable values.

I might need my money. True, you might. And it will be there for you when you do need it. A legacy gift represents what you value and how you wish to be remembered when you will no longer need your assets.

I don’t know where to give. There are indeed many worthwhile causes and organizations. Many people base their legacy gifts on what inspires them or on issues of greatest concern. Others select specific charities that helped them or a loved one.

I have to be a millionaire to leave a bequest. The great thing about legacy giving is that you can make a bequest in any amount. The recipient organizations will gratefully cherish your gift no matter its size.

What better way to ensure your charitable legacy continues than by including a charitable bequest.

Matthew A. Kaliff is senior director of endowment development at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Cleveland. This article is not intended as legal, tax, or financial advice. Consult with your own professional adviser.

Learn More: Federation, Philanthropy