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Back to Basics: Reminding Clients About Wills, Trusts and Charitable Bequests

August is National Make a Will Month, and the publicity surrounding this designation may prompt your clients to ask you whether their affairs are in good order.

Indeed, despite the many cautionary tales arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, most Americans do not have a will. Even those clients who do have estate plans in place may not understand the difference between a will and a trust (and why they still need a will even if they have a revocable living trust). A client also may not understand that a charitable bequest can be part of an estate plan whether the client’s main estate planning vehicle is a will or whether it is a trust.

Of the $485 billion given to charity by Americans in 2021, according to Giving USA, 9.5% of that giving came from bequests–that’s $46 billion. Giving USA’s data visualization tool illustrates the ebbs and flows of bequest giving, which has long been a significant component of philanthropy.

Research reveals fascinating psychological factors behind a person’s decision to leave a bequest in the first place, which helps to understand the motivation for leaving a gift to a charitable organization in a will or trust. Not surprisingly, altruism has long been one of those factors. Bequests to charity are not a new idea. Examples of high-profile estate gifts date back centuries. Some of your clients may be familiar with the bequests of Benjamin Franklin, who established testamentary charitable trusts dedicated to supporting Boston and Philadelphia tradesmen, and George Washington, who left bequests in his will to colleges and trade schools.

We look forward to working with you to establish your clients’ philanthropic legacies.

The team at the community foundation is a resource and sounding board as you serve your philanthropic clients. We understand the charitable side of the equation and are happy to serve as a secondary source as you manage the primary relationship with your clients. This blog post is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, accounting or financial planning advice.  

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