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Giving through your will: Choices you can make now

May 02, 2004|by Brad Sell

Every year nonprofit organizations receive bequests from the estates of deceased friends. These gifts are a tremendous benefit and nonprofit organizations rely on such gifts as they move into the future.

When you revise or create your will for the first time, I hope you will include a gift to the charity of your choice.

As you consider an estate gift, it may be useful to know some of the bequest options you have. For example, you can make your bequest as an unrestricted gift. This permits the charity to use your bequest where it is needed most.

A second type of bequest is designated or restricted to a specific purpose. For example, a gift may be earmarked for a program you feel keenly about or for capital improvements. You could even designate a bequest to establish an endowment.

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A third kind would be a combination of the first two. That is, part of the bequest might be used as the board sees fit and the restricted part for the predetermined purpose.

Once you've decided on the kind of bequest, you must determine how the bequest will be identified. You have at least three options.

First, you can specify a specific amount or item. For example, you could bequeath a vacation home, or certain securities or a set amount of money.

Second, you can name the charity to receive a percentage of the residue of your estate - the amount that is left after the bills and specific bequests have been made.

Finally, you could name your favorite charity as a contingent beneficiary to receive that part of your estate that would have passed to another person had he or she been living.

For example, a will can indicate that everything is to go to your spouse unless your spouse predeceases you - in which case the assets, or part of them, could be assigned to the charity.

As you think through your estate giving plans, you are welcome to give me a call so I can explain the giving options you have, as well as suggested wording for the various bequest types and methods mentioned above.

All of this will assist your attorney when you meet with him or her to discuss and finalize your will.

As you proceed with your estate plans, I strongly encourage you to inform the charity about any bequest decisions affecting them.

This will help ensure that they honor any restrictions you have placed in your bequest. It also helps their long-range planning efforts if they know where future resources are being directed.

Best of all, it gives them the opportunity to thank and honor you in advance, and to include you in their recognition literature.

Brad Sell is the executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County.

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