Estate planning is the legal process of arranging your affairs to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death, which can include giving to others in need and/or charities. Estate planning can incorporate charitable giving, whether by legal documents drafted by an attorney, such as a Will or Trust, or by other direct means while living. Charitable giving can have many benefits, such as reducing your taxes, fulfilling personal values, and leaving a positive legacy.
Here are some steps to follow when considering a charity for your estate planning:
1. Identify your charitable goals and interests. You may also consider your personal or family history, your religious or cultural beliefs, or your professional or civic affiliations.
2. Research charities that match your criteria. You can use online databases, such as Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), or GuideStar (www.guidestar.org) or GiveWell (www.givewell.org).
You can also ask for recommendations from your friends, family, or advisors, or contact local or national organizations that focus on your area of interest, or contact the charity directly and ask questions.
3. You can look up the charity’s IRS Form 990 which shows its income and expenses and summary of activities for the year at: www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/search-for-tax-exempt-organizations
4. There are different ways to give to charity through estate planning, such as:
• Leaving a bequest in your Will or Trust
• Naming a charity as a beneficiary of your retirement account, life insurance policy, or annuity contract, which can avoid income and estate taxes for your heirs and the charity.
• Creating a charitable trust, such as a charitable remainder trust or a charitable lead trust, which can provide income to you or your beneficiaries for a period, and then transfer the remaining assets to a charity.
• Establishing a donor-advised fund, which is a charitable account that allows you to make contributions and recommend grants to various charities over time, while enjoying tax benefits and professional management.
• Obtaining a charitable gift annuity, which is a contract that guarantees you a fixed income for life, and then donating the remaining principal to a charity.
Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your financial situation, tax implications, and personal goals. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a professional advisor, such as a lawyer, accountant, or financial planner, to help you choose the best option for you and your charity.