Giving Back During Tough Economic Times, Part 6

We’ve discussed a lot of different ways over the past few weeks that you can give back during tough economic times. This one happens to be a little trickier, because its effects are – hopefully – not immediate. However, at some point it’s sure to have a big impact.

Write a bequest in your Will to one or multiple charitable organizations or institutions that you value.

You can designate a specific amount or a percentage of your net estate, which, after taxes, probably won’t drastically affect your family’s inheritance. A particularly good idea is to get your children and spouse involved in the decision, so they can learn from your generosity and support your wishes.

The last thing anyone wants while grieving for a loved one – in this case, you – is to have a struggle over where money is going, particularly if that struggle is with a charitable organization.

If you or your children are concerned that an organization may not be what it once was when you pass and leave it money, you could set parameters. For instance, the organization may currently return 90% of all donations directly to those it’s helping (that is, less than 10% of donations are used for administrative purposes). However, you might stipulate that if the organization has gotten sloppy at the time of the bequest – say, using 25% or more of donations for administration – then the donation is canceled. I’m not saying you should do these things (who knows why the circumstances might be what they are), but there may be ways to temper your family’s concerns and potential objections.

One of the most valuable lessons and immediate impacts in the “giving back during tough economic times” sense is the lessons this will teach your family. If your family members see and understand your desires and decisions and the generosity with which you lived your life, they are that much more likely to become charitable people themselves.

I remember once as the CFO of a non-profit business, we were having cash flow issues and couldn’t even make payroll that week. A bequest suddenly appeared that allowed me to make payroll, and it made the biggest difference to the business and every one of its employees because some anonymous donor who had recently passed – at some point in his life – changed his will to add a donation to this organization that he considered worthy. You never know how the timing will help, but in this case the impact was tremendous and integral to the survival of this non-profit.

Have you written charitable organizations into your will? Do you have a comparable way of achieving these ends?

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