Incorporating Planned Giving into Your Estate Plan

Q: Do I need to be rich to leave money to a favorite cause or charity?

One of the biggest misconceptions about estate planning is that you don’t need a will unless you have a lot of money. Another misconception is that you can’t donate money to a favorite charity or cause unless you’re worth a fortune.

First off, no one knows how long life is going to be or what challenges or blessings are in store. So, it pays for all adults to have a skilled California estate planning attorney prepare an estate plan that covers them for virtually whatever may conceivably happen.

Early on in life, that may just be a simple last will and testament and/or trust documents disposing of your property after you die. If you have a minor child or children, one of the most important purposes of a will is to designate who will be the legal guardian of your children if you should die before they reach the age of majority. If you don’t have this in place, family and friends whom you may or may not want to be involved may fight over raising your children and the ultimate decision on who will raise them will be made by a judge instead of you.

A comprehensive estate plan generally includes include power of attorney documents that designate an agent or agents—typically a trusted family or friend—to make financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated.

After an initial estate plan is put into place, some people think that’s it. But your relationship with your estate planning attorney should be long-term. As life goes on, circumstances change and the need to modify your estate plan often becomes necessary. Estate plans can be impacted by changes like marriages, divorces, births of children or grandchildren (especially if they have special needs), adoptions, family estrangements, business purchases or sales, and more.

You also don’t have to leave everything (or anything) to your relatives if you don’t want to, but you need a carefully-drafted will and/or trust in order to avoid your property passing to relatives through the intestacy statutes. Intestacy–or dying without a will–means your property will be given to your relatives in accordance with the distribution schedule of your state as mandated by law—even if you would not have wanted it to be distributed that way. A will or trust allows you control over who gets what.

Planned giving can be accomplished during your lifetime or at the time of your death. It allows you to donate to charity which not only makes you feel good but might confer certain tax advantages.

If charitable giving is a priority and a way to leave a lasting legacy after you’re gone, it’s easy to plan for it. One Mississippi woman, who worked as a “washerwoman”, was reportedly able to leave a local college $150,000 when she died at 91. But it’s never too late to plan for charitable giving, so if the idea appeals to you, modify your estate plan to include it.

If you need help with an initial estate plan or need to modify an existing estate plan, whether incorporating planned giving or not, Biddle Law can help you accomplish your goals. Contact us today to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.

From our offices in San Mateo and Belmont, California, we assist clients in throughout San Mateo County including San Carlos, Burlingame, and Foster City.