Everyone leaves a legacy upon passing. That legacy can include intangible things like how you raised your family or how you served your community. Your legacy can also include tangible gifts to organizations that have been important to you, such as your place of worship, your alma mater, or a charity. Of course, you can make charitable donations throughout your life, but it’s often hard to be sure that you won’t require those funds during your lifetime.
There are several ways to leave a charitable bequest upon your passing. First, a specific bequest allows you to give a specific dollar amount or percentage of your estate to a particular individual or organization. Specific bequests typically are the first bequests made from an estate. Another option would be to make a residual bequest to a charitable organization. Residual bequests leave the remainder of your estate to a particular organization after all debts, taxes, and expenses are paid and other beneficiaries receive their bequests. Both specific and residual bequests typically ensure that some portion of your estate will go to the charity of your choosing. In other words, the charity of your choosing will receive a gift upon your passing along with your children or other loved ones (if that is your wish).
Alternatively, you can leave a contingent bequest to a charity, naming a charity to receive a bequest only in the event that your intended beneficiaries do not survive you. Though contingent bequests do not often result in an actual bequest to the named charity, planning with contingent bequests allows you to direct your assets to a charity of your choosing, rather than the state’s distributing your estate assets to your more remote family members.
If leaving a charitable gift as part of your estate plan is something you would like to consider, your estate planning attorney can help you determine the best approach for you and your family.