Learn how to leave a charitable gift in your will, so you can support the organizations and causes that mean the most to you.
Estate planning can seem like an activity that’s easy to put off, but it’s critical to start thinking about it now. Your estate plan is an opportunity to celebrate God’s blessings in your life, plan provisions for family members, and think about the legacy you want to leave. It’s also a way to share your Catholic values with your family and support the organizations that matter most to you. And one of the most powerful tools to do those things is to leave a gift to charity in your will.
A Will’s Power
A will is an essential tool that dictates the people and organizations to which your assets will be distributed after you die. Leaving a gift to charity in your will allows you to remain in control of your assets during your lifetime, so you can modify your bequest if your personal circumstances change.
Your will is a legal document that spells out exactly how your assets will be disbursed. If your estate is large or complicated, it may be a good idea to have an estate planning attorney prepare your will. For simpler estates, you may be able to prepare your will yourself. Most states also require the signatures of two witnesses who are not relatives. It’s a good idea to check the laws of your state to be sure your will meets all legal requirements.
It’s also important to note that instructions in your will do not override beneficiary designations in some cases. Life insurance policies, retirement plans, and some other types of accounts require a beneficiary designation, which dictates the people and organizations to which the account or policy proceeds will be disbursed upon your death. These designations will override whatever disbursement you indicate in your will, so be sure to regularly check that these beneficiaries are congruent with your wishes for your estate proceeds.
Charitable Gift Tax Benefits
With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 making significant changes to the tax law, fewer people get an immediate deduction from typical charitable donations. Those who do must be eligible to itemize their taxes — they must have combined deductions, including qualified charitable donations, that exceed the limits of $12,000 per individual and $24,000 per married couple in 2019 — and meet certain income and gift thresholds. However, under current tax law, there is no upper limit on the estate tax deduction for your charitable bequests when they are made to qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
For people who need that flexibility or who simply want to create a legacy that lasts in perpetuity, leaving a charitable gift in their will is a good idea. Your bequest can be a specific amount — such as $25,000 to fund a Catholic Community Foundation endowment fund that provides proceeds to the cause in perpetuity — or a percentage of your estate. You can also direct your gift to be used for a particular purpose that supports the Catholic values that are closest to your heart. For example, your gift may be indicated for a particular use within your parish. You may also make an unrestricted gift and allow the organization to use your gift to meet its greatest needs.
How It Works
Leaving a charitable bequest in your will is surprisingly simple:
- Add language about the specifics of your bequest to your will and have the change observed and signed by appropriate witnesses.
- If the gift will be disbursed from a retirement fund, insurance policy, or other asset or account with a beneficiary designation, ensure that the designation reflects your wishes.
- Make your bequest unrestricted or direct it to a specific purpose.
- Inform the charity about your intention to leave the gift so they may celebrate it with you.
Such gifts and support are critical for charitable organizations to continue their work and have maximum impact. It’s a simple way to support the organizations and causes that have meant so much to you over the course of your lifetime, while also providing an important opportunity to share lessons about your values with your family members.
For more information about planning a gift to the Catholic Community Foundation in your will, please contact us.