The will is one of the most popular and flexible tools for making long-range charitable gifts and perpetuating your influence into the future.
A bequest is a provision in one's last will and testament, transferring a gift or property from an estate to a charitable organization. You don't need to be wealthy to be able to leave a gift that makes an impact. For example, a $10,000 gift, invested in an endowment fund, can provide more than $650,000 to charity in a 100-year span. For each multimillion-dollar charitable bequest you read about, countless smaller ones are arranged by ordinary people of all means, in all walks of life – people who would have liked to have made larger gifts to charity during their lifetime, but who found it difficult to do so.
A charitable bequest may be structured in a number of ways. In the case of a smaller bequest, it may be best to simply state a specific dollar amount. Many persons choose to leave a set percent of their estate for charitable uses; this offers a correcting mechanism in case the estate should unexpectedly increase or decrease in value. Perhaps the most common method of leaving charitable bequests is through residual clauses. After providing for relatives and friends, the individual specifies that all or a portion of what remains should be distributed to one or more charitable organizations.
There are also other options available for taking care of your loved ones first, while providing for an eventual charitable gift. A number of planning tools allow you to arrange an income from your assets for your surviving spouse or other person for the rest of that individual's life or for a set number of years, after which all or a portion of the assets will pass to charity.
If your estate is large enough to be subject to estate taxes – anything beyond $675,000 – you should be aware there is no limit to the amount that can be left to charity and deducted from your estate. As a result, the tax benefits may significantly reduce the actual cost of the gift.
Leaving a legacy to charity is rewarding, but such a gift can only be made if you plan ahead. Usually, very simple arrangements, such as adding a codicil (amendment) to your existing will, are all that are required. Be sure to consult your attorney for the best advice in your situation. However, you may receive more information by sending in the form found here.