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Wills and estate planning

Donating to charity in your last will and testament

There are three ways to give to charity when you die: a fixed sum, a named item or a percentage of assets after beneficiaries have been taken care of.

When you create a last will and testament, more often than not your first priority is your family. However, in many cases, people would also like to leave a gift to a favorite charity or nonprofit organization.

If your wishes are to leave a legacy (a gift in a will) to a specific organization, there are typically three types: fixed sum, specific and residuary.

A fixed sum of money (pecuniary)

A pecuniary legacy is simply the gift of a fixed sum of money in your will. An estate planning attorney can help you draft your will to ensure that your cash gift is left to the charity of your choice.

Specific legacy

A specific legacy is the gift of a named item in your will. Typically, it's an item of value such as property, jewelry, collections or shares of stock. Leaving a specific legacy can be as simple as the inclusion of a sentence that states the gift and identifies the receiving organization. Keep in mind that the item you are gifting must be in your possession at the time of your death. Lastly, it's important to clearly define your gift. For example, what if you have more than one coin collection? If there is any confusion, your gift to the named charity may not be realized.

A residuary legacy

A residuary legacy is leaving all, or a percentage of the remainder of your estate to a charity once all other gifts to your beneficiaries (such as family and friends), outstanding taxes, and other commitments have been taken into account and distributed. Basically, it means that you can leave a set proportion of your estate to charity after other beneficiaries have been taken care of.

If you have already made a will but now want to leave a legacy to a charity, you can make an addition or changes without having to rewrite your current will. This addition is called a codicil, and an estate planning attorney could advise you on how to add this to your existing will. In most all cases, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a professional estate planning attorney when making any changes to your last will and testament.



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Disclaimer: This article is not meant to provide legal or tax advice. Estate laws will vary depending on the state you reside in. It is advisable to consult with an estate planning attorney or other legal professional regarding changes and/or updates to your last will and testament.
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