Including Gifts To Charity In Your Will

Leaving a gift to charity in your will in the form of a bequest or donation is a powerful way to make a positive difference to a cause you believe strongly in. But is it as simple as simply writing your gift in your will? And would you gift be more valuable if it was given whilst you're still alive?

"Do you want to look like a hero after you're dead? Or be a hero when you're alive?"

Gifting through your will is an incredibly powerful way of making a positive difference to organisations and causes you believe strongly in, or using your money to create a lasting legacy and bigger impact than it might in the pocket of your family.

Personally I'm passionate about being a hero when you're alive, rather than looking like a hero after you're dead, but a bequest is particularly valuable if you have money timed up in assets like a house, superannuation or investments that you need to access or use during your lifetime.

Is gifting to a charity as simple as writing it in your will?

The short answer is no.

A will that includes a charitable bequest requires thought and consideration, as well as specific legal wording, to ensure your bequest goes to the people you intend it to and has maximum positive impact.

Two factors that aren't adquately considered when you tick a box in a free (or cheap) online will:

1| The capacity to account for future changes to the charity name, organisational structure and/or an amalgamation, as well as giving adequate consideration to any specific instructions regarding the use or distribution of your gift. When you tick the box you're at the mercy of the charity using your bequest how ever they please (including paying substantial commissions to the free will companies who helped pull in your donation).

2| Adequate conversation around ensuring that you have made legal provision for those you have an obligation to provide for, before gifting to charity, to avoid any future fallout from an inadequate family provision claim. This is particularly important if you plan to gift a significant percentage of your estate, rather than simply gifting a specific financial amount.

There's no conversation with a free will.

How bequests can be used to punish

In the past I have helped family members navigate wills where the willmaker used a sizable bequest in an attempt to circumvent family provision laws. 

There's no better way to tell the world you're a dead hero (even if you were far from a hero in your lifetime) than making a sizable donation to a charity. And nothing protects your image quite as much as a family member who fights a charity in court.

Bequests that are designed to punish leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Instead I encourage people to have a conversation with their family about gifting and giving before they add it to their estate plan. To work through ways they can BE heroes in their lifetime rather than waiting to look like a hero when they're dead.

Choosing Your Charity

Choose an organisation that means a lot to you and/or your family. Often people choose a charity that has supported them or a family member or an organisation whose services they've accessed. Or choose a charity that best represents how you see good being done in the world; this might be an animal rescue or other community organisation that aligns with your values.

Before you leave money or possessions in your will I encourage you to give small donations of money, time, knowledge or skills to the organisation(s) you're considering supporting so you can see how your bequest will work to benefit others, in your lifetime.

Consider leaving gifts for smaller organisations that don't have gloss brochures, bequests departments, and can't afford the commission fees from marketing events like Free Wills Week. The impact your donation has on these organisations can make all the difference.

IMPORTANT: do your research to make sure the organisation you choose is a registered charity. You can check HERE.

Ways You Can Bequeath

Decide whether you want your bequest to be anonymous or whether you want the organisation to honour you or your family for many years after your death with a plaque, a building or event in your name, a scholarship or bursary in your memory...

It's important you discuss this with your family and leave details of your wishes and not just assume they know how you want your money to be used.

There are four different ways you can nominate a gift in your will.

Residual: a residual bequest gifts the remainder of your Estate to the charity of your choice after first leaving gifts to your loved ones and paying off any financial commitments, funeral arrangements etc.

Pecuniary or Specific: a pecuniary or specific gift clearly specifies the donation which can be money, property, stocks or collectibles.

Whole Estate: a whole estate bequest is usually left by someone without family or other preferred beneficiaries, or those wanting to achieve something very specific with their gift.

Percentage or Fractional: donating a fraction or percentage of your estate takes into consideration the changing value of your assets due to factors such as inflation.

Writing Your Will

Have your will drafted by a lawyer who specialises in wills and estate planning to ensure you receive proper individualised advice about the type of gift you wish to make and any potential legal implications that may arise from your gift.

Your lawyer should outline any potential disputes that may eventuate after your death, particularly if there are family members you have a duty to provide for in your will or relatives who may disagree about what should happen with your estate.

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