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Giving more, the easy way

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Posted: 6 pm ET

Leaving a charitable bequest is as easy as treating the charity as an heir on your various accounts. But combined with annual gifts during life, your donation could pack a lot more punch -- for you and the charity.

Here are three easy ways to make a bequest to a charity:

  1. Name the charity as a beneficiary on your retirement account. No taxes will be due from your estate or from the charity.
  2. Title your bank account as POD, or payable on death; or your brokerage account as TOD, or transfer on death, in the name of the charity.
  3. Name the charity as beneficiary on your life insurance account.

Once you've completed the task of making the charity an heir, you could forget about it. Or you could make a bigger impact and reap more personal satisfaction by combining your bequest with lifetime gifts to the same charity. You get the reward of maximizing your donation and seeing it implemented and the charity receives a larger financial commitment.

Steven Meyers, vice president at the Center for Personalized Philanthropy at the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science in New York, says a personalized philanthropy plan doesn't have to be a big financial commitment. Even if the bulk of your donation happens after your death, you can still make annual contributions during life. For example, he explains, someone who wants to fund a scholarship could commit an annual amount to the fund during life until they are able to fully fund it with a larger bequest at death. In that case, the charity likely would recognize you for the entire gift and, in some cases, allow you to have more direction in how the money is allocated.

Meyers says this strategy "turns the traditional endowment on its head" and adds that by "building equity in their endowment over time, donors have the satisfaction of immediate impact on a cause they are passionate about and charities can be assured of future support for their core missions."

Have you considered combining a lifetime annual gift to charity with a bequest to create a bigger commitment?

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