How to Fit Charities Into Your Estate Plan
Contributing money to a charity is a very common estate planning choice. There is a process that goes beyond simply naming the charity as a beneficiary, though. Here are four things an estate planning attorney will need from you to see that your philanthropic desires for your legacy are met.
The Correct Beneficiary
Not all charities are established legally under the names that folks commonly use for them. There might be a trust that operates the charity, for example, it may have a surprisingly different name. Similarly, there are scenarios where groups have to operate under different names to prevent conflicts with ones established before them. It's a good idea to contact the organization and learn what its specific legal name is for the state where you reside. Ask them to send you a formal letter with all of the information needed for them to accept philanthropic contributions from estates.
Current Contact Information
People often assume that big entities will always be easy for an estate's executor to track down. However, things move fast in this world. Don't assume that the information you entered into your will 20 years ago is right. As a part of your annual review of your estate planning efforts, it's prudent to contact the charities you care about. Verify that they're still operating. Likewise, make sure you still have the right address and contact information for them.
Plans for Distribution
There are many ways to distribute money. Some folks establish trusts or foundations that make payments to charities annually. It's possible that an estate planning attorney to help you start a trust now. You can then hold onto certain assets and money until you pass, at which point the will would transfer those resources into the trust. It's also possible to send everything as a lump to the organization upon your passing. However, that will have to clear the probate court before asset titles are transferred and money is deposited. Generally, the process involving a trust moves faster and is less restricted by probate.
Understanding the Charity's Mission
One common mistake people make is looking at charities through mood affiliations rather than strict goals. It's a good idea to investigate what the charity will do with the money from your estate. You should also ascertain how well the charity spends its money and uses its resources. This inquiry will provide greater assurance that their mission aligns with your values. It also will reduce the risk of fraud or misuse of funds.