In this article, we provide a straightforward roadmap to help you navigate the process, ensuring your legacy lives on through impactful charitable contributions.
Creating bequests and living wills to fund a charity may be one of the most enduring decisions you can make. There are many benefits of charitable bequests made in a will as a lasting gift. Although it does involve some big decisions and legal guidance, making a bequest is a relatively smooth and simple process. To help clarify what you’ll need to do, here’s a clear outline of the steps for how to make a charitable donation in your will.
1. Make a Clear List of Your Assets
Before deciding which assets you want to leave to a charity in your will create a list of assets. it’s important to have an exact list of your assets so you know what assets will be part of your estate plan. This will help you figure out how to leave charity in your will without neglecting family members or other beneficiaries.
Examples of four main assets to include would be:
- Real Estate
In this step, you will also want to gather all the documents and information that pertain to each of these assets. This should include official documents like property deeds and necessary information like the account numbers and passwords for your bank accounts.
For more information on making a list of your assets see: https://www.willful.co/learn/how-to-create-your-asset-list
2. Make a List of People and Organizations to Name in Your Will
When you get ready to write your will, you’ll be faced with some big decisions. You want to decide how to maximize your possessions to help your family while leaving a positive impact on the world in a meaningful way.
As part of this process you will be deciding and listing each entity who will receive assets in your will. This list should include the charitable organizations you would like to make a bequest to. Choosing that charitable organization is an important part of the process.
This step will be different for every person. If you’re a person who donates to charities on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to look at the last couple of donations you’ve given and to whom you gave them to. The causes you support already are usually ones that resonate with you, and you most likely will want to support them in perpetuity.
But possibly you don’t make regular charitable donations, and even if you do, you may be looking for a special cause to receive a large amount in your will as a charitable bequest. You can search online for the types of organizations and causes you want to support. You may want to do research that will allow you to see which organizations are making a real difference in a real way. The information will help you to decide which one is most deserving of your charitable bequest.
The organizations you name in your will as the ones to receive part of your assets are called beneficiaries. But there’s another important person to name in your will, and that is the Executor. When making a charitable bequest it’s important to have an executor set up so that you ensure your wishes are carried out, and that the organization of your choice actually gets what they deserve. The executor will carry out the instructions you leave in your will. They should be responsible, trustworthy, and knowledgeable about what planned giving is, and its benefits. Think carefully before choosing the person for this task.
3. Decide What Kind of Bequest to Leave
Here’s where things sometimes get confusing, because there are many kinds of bequests you can leave in your will.
For example, you can choose to leave a residuary bequest to your favorite charity. This means that whatever’s left after
all the other assets are distributed will be sent to that charity as a beneficiary. You can also leave a contingent bequest,
which means that the charity only gets the bequest if the person listed as the beneficiary cannot receive that asset for any reason.
If you’re not sure what type of bequest best fits your needs, you can look at who else is being named in your will and what assets you have to distribute. That will give you an idea of how much of your estate is available for the bequest.
Types of Bequests
Bequest: This option works best if you have a large cash fund and want to leave a lump sum to a charity.
You can decide on an amount or a percentage of the money to leave to charity.
Trust: You can assign a charity to receive a trust fund under your name by designating them as a beneficiary in your will.
Gifts of Appreciated Securities: You can give an organization the profit made off investments when they rise in value.
Blended Gifts: A blended gift includes both cash and another type of planned gift.
Pecuniary Gifts: Gifting a specific sum of money or other financial asset, rather than a specific item of property,
that can be used for any purpose designated by the beneficiary.
4. Add a Bequest Clause to Your Legal Will
Once you have made a list of your assets and decided who will get which assets and what kind of gifts or bequests you’d like to leave them, it’s time to actually write your decisions in a will.
Writing your will is your way of making sure your wishes are followed even after you’re gone. It’s a major step, and you want to do it right. For some people, this means hiring an attorney to write their will together with them. Finding an attorney and vetting them to make sure they are a good fit for you can be done at avvo.com and other lawyer-finding sites. You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for writing a will, but you may get some valuable tips and advice on estate planning, including which tax deductions for charitable bequests you may be eligible for.
But hiring an attorney is not a must. Many people choose to write their own wills using online willmakers. This option is easy and quick, and also often free.
If you choose to write your own will, make sure it’s legal. Because the laws of legally-binding wills differ by location, check that your will follows your state laws. Freewill.com offers a free will maker that is valid in all fifty states.
If you already have a will and want to update it, this step still applies to you, because the safest and most legal way to update a will is simply to write a new one. In the new will make sure to include a clause that revokes all previous wills.
The only way to update your will without making a new one is by adding a codicil to your existing will. A codicil is a legal addition to your will that makes a change or an update. For a free codicil template, see Free Codicil to Will Template (US) | LawDepot.
When writing the bequest clause, you will list the exact gift types along with the legal name and tax ID #s of the beneficiary. This can be as simple as a sentence written as follows: “I give $150,000 of my estate to Rabbi Meir Baal Haness charities, Tax ID # 11-3471447.”
But if it is a more complex asset or a more complex gift type, you should be careful to word the bequest clause in your will deliberately. Also, you can specify in your will what you would like the gift you are giving to charity to be used for.
A sample template for your bequest can read like this: I give and devise to [organization name and ID #] located in [location of organization] a [gift type — such as percentage of my assets] to be used [name of a specific program.]
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5. Add a Halachic Will
Judaism has its own laws regarding wills. Make sure your will complies with halacha (Jewish law) by attaching a halachic will to your legal will. It’s a simple document that will allow your inheritors to receive equal portions of the inheritance and ensures that every asset you designated will go to the designated party.
This is necessary if you have sons and daughters to whom you want to bequeath parts of your estate to, and especially if you have a halachic firstborn son. Your sons are already halachic heirs, but if you’d like to give parts of your estate to others, you need to write a halachic will. Even a bequest to charity in a will is not halachically valid without a halachic will.
You can get a halachic will online at https://www.nasck.org/wills-in-accordance-with-halachah/. After filling it out, bring it to your local Jewish rabbi to sign and attach it to your legal will. Once you do that, your legal will and charitable bequests are binding according to Jewish law.
6. Let the Organization Know About Your Bequest
Most organizations want to know when you’ve named them in your will as a beneficiary. This way, they can express appreciation while the donor is still able to accept their thanks, and you may be able to discuss your preferences in terms of how you want the money to be used.
Rabbi Meir Baal Haness charities is honored to accept charitable bequests to support their lifesaving work. If you have added our charity to your will, please send us a message.
For those who find the intricate terminology of planned giving somewhat perplexing,
we invite you to peruse our ‘Glossary of Planned Giving Terms’ as a helpful resource.