August is National Make-A-Will Month, and you may be reading articles and hearing about estate planning more this month than usual, which makes the next few weeks an especially good time to review your estate plans–or get your wills and trusts in order if you haven’t done so yet.

Charitable giving is an important part of any estate planning conversation. Certainly, bold, legacy-making plans are frequently in the news because of the high-profile people who establish them, but you too, and nearly anyone, really, can leave a legacy to support favorite charitable causes.

Here’s a primer about leaving a legacy:

Q: What is a legacy gift to a charity?

A: Think of a charitable legacy as a post-life gift that you structure in advance. Legacy gifts are often referred to as planned giving.

Q: What assets can be used to make a legacy gift? 

A: Like the gifts to charity that you are already making during your lifetime, cash, stock (especially highly-appreciated stock), real estate, life insurance, an IRA beneficiary designation (which is extremely tax effective), are examples of assets that can be the subject of a legacy gift. A legacy gift can be expressed in your estate planning documents as a dollar amount, percentage of the whole, or a legacy gift of the assets themselves. You will want to choose assets carefully, enlisting the expertise of your financial planner or attorney to do so.

Q: How is a legacy gift actually made? 

A: Legacy gifts are typically spelled out in detail in your will or trust documents. This is especially important because after you are gone, too much is otherwise potentially subject to hearsay or conflict. To attorneys, accountants, and financial advisors, this is common sense, but a surprising 2 out of 3 Americans have no estate planning documents.

Q: What are some particulars to be aware of?

A: Most legacy gifts can be revoked or altered through beneficiary or will changes during your lifetime. This is an important feature, as you can include charitable giving in your estate plans but still be flexible as your overall family and financial picture changes over the years.

Q: What tools does the community foundation offer to help?

A: A particularly useful technique is to establish a fund at the community foundation that spells out the your wishes for charitable distributions to specific organizations. Your estate planning documents can, in turn, simply name the fund as the beneficiary of charitable bequests. You can adjust the terms of the fund anytime during your lifetime to reflect evolving charitable priorities.

Want to know more details about Estate Planning in Montana check out our webinar with Marsha Geotting.

Learn more about how your legacy could establish a fund at the Community Foundation or how we could help fund the organizations you are most passionate about. Call us (406)926-2846 to set up an appointment.

*Please note that The Community Foundation does not render tax or legal advice. We ask that you consult with your professional advisor about your situation before making a charitable gift.