Estate Planning Checklist for Charitable Giving


Did you know you can make charitable giving a part of your estate plan? A popular option for those aging without children or who no longer feel connected to family, charitable giving is a way to give back to the world. However, how do you handle estate planning for charitable giving in a practical, legal way?

Most people recognize that you need to have a plan for your finances after your death. Without a plan, your assets and wishes are at risk. If you don’t have loved ones or relatives, your estate could be returned to the state. This means charitable giving too often falls by the wayside, even for those who want to do good after they’re gone. 

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The legacy you leave behind shapes the way you’re remembered. If giving back and serving others is important to you, here’s everything you need to know about estate planning for charitable giving. 

Estate Planning Checklist for Charitable Giving

This attorney-designed checklist is here to guide you every step of the way, keeping the focus on giving back. 

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Why Is Estate Planning Important If You’re Interested in Charitable Giving?

First, why is estate planning important? If you’re interested in charitable giving, can’t your family or other groups give on your behalf? There are a lot of misconceptions around this process. 

Many people choose to leave portions, and sometimes even all, of their estates to charities and organizations instead of to specific people. Regardless of the size of the bequest, it can be one of your final marks on the world and an effort to make a difference. 

If charitable giving seems like a good fit for you, you’ll have to be proactive with your estate planning. Without a will, trust, or another estate plan in place, your probate estate passes by your state’s intestacy laws. This means your assets are automatically passed down through the laws of your state, generally to your next-of-kin, relatives, or even the state itself. 

In addition to ensuring that your estate goes to the charity or organization of your choice, estate planning also involves setting up the transfer to happen in a way that’s most useful for the organization so that your money is doing the most good. Your financial legacy is important. Don’t leave it to chance. 

Estate Planning Considerations for Charitable Giving

Before you begin, consider these unique estate planning considerations specifically for charitable giving. Unlike other types of giving, like leaving something to your child or a friend, there are unique protocols to know about. 

First, state intestacy laws pass a person’s probate estate on to their spouse or biological family members–not charities or organizations. This means if you don’t have a legal will, there is no way for your estate to go to a charity unless a beneficiary chooses to do this of his or her own free will. 

Additionally, naming a charity in your will typically gives them the right to notice and participate in any probate case related to your estate. You can pass money or assets to a charity through your will, a trust, or non-probate transfers. 

Property gifts

Did you know not all charitable gifts had to be cash? You can name non-cash gifts as non-probate transfers. Non-probate transfers include naming the charity as the payable-on-death beneficiary of a financial account or piece of real estate.

Incorporating charitable giving into your real estate plan can be a beautiful gift. When you do this, you can continue to use the property for the remainder of your life, ensuring it passes to the institution or charity upon your death. 

» MORE: Your family has 500 hours of work to do after you die. Learn how to make it easier.

Life insurance

Your life insurance can also turn into charitable giving. Most people already have a life insurance policy on their own or through work. These are an effective way to limit the financial burden on loved ones after death. They can also be used to give back. 

Known as a charitable gift rider, you can name one or more charities as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. This means a percentage of the policy’s face value goes to a qualified charity. However, these usually have limitations, so check your specific provider’s qualifications when you get started. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Estate Planning for Charitable Giving

Here are the most frequently asked questions about estate planning for charitable giving. 

How can you talk to a loved one who’s interested in charitable giving about estate planning?

When you think that your loved one would want to give at least a portion of their estate to a charity, let them know that it doesn’t happen automatically. Give them this checklist so they can understand the importance of having a will or other estate planning method.

For an ice breaker, consider bringing up the recent headlines about MacKenzie Scott giving away large sums of money to causes important to her. 

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How do you find an attorney specializing in estate planning for charitable giving?

If you plan to give large amounts of money to charity, find an attorney experienced in charitable trusts or wealth management. Attorneys who specialize in these topics will explicitly state this on their websites. 

Any probate or estate planning attorney can help you include charitable giving in your will or other estate planning documents. The mechanics of making a bequest to a charity is much like giving gifts to friends or family members.

You can use word-of-mouth recommendations or your state’s bar association find-an-attorney tool as a starting place for finding an attorney. Before choosing an attorney, read their online reviews and schedule a consultation to make sure they seem like a good fit for your needs.

Create a Legacy of Giving Back

Is charity something that’s important to you? If there’s a cause closely aligned with your legacy, don’t hesitate to include charitable giving as part of your estate plan. However, recognize that this won’t happen unless you create the right legal framework. 

The good news is it doesn’t require extensive documentation or planning to get started. You can create an estate plan with charitable giving in mind with ease. 

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