If you would like to leave a gift for a good cause in your estate, it can be difficult to know where to start. Certain methods of giving have tax benefits and some might require complicated steps for an estate executor. However, with careful planning you can make your gift a reality.

Where should you start?

The best way to start is to choose a charity to receive your gift. If a special charity does not immediately come to mind, consider browsing charity watchdog lists for top-rated charities. These lists review charities for how they distribute what is given to them, the trustworthiness of their leaders and other factors.

It would be a good idea to name a few charities in your estate planning documents. In the unlikely event the charity should dismantle or fall in bad faith by the time your estate is executed, your beneficiaries will know where to divert the money.

How will the charity receive your gift?

Next, it is important to identify what you are donating, especially if it involves real property. For instance, if you would like to donate half of your estate’s acreage to a nature conservancy, you will need to arrange for the transfer of the deed and establish exactly where that boundary lies.

If your gift is money, profits or the value of non-real property (such as stocks and bonds), you may need the help of an expert. Legal and financial advisors can help you set up the following:

  • A charitable gift annuity
  • A charitable remainder trust
  • A charitable lead trust
  • A private foundation
  • A bequest

Some of these methods have significant tax benefits for your estate. Keep in mind that you might not be able to give specific directions about how you would like your money used. In some situations, your donation might be added to a general fund and is used as the charity sees fit.

If you would like your legacy to include a donation to your favorite charity, it is important to set up an airtight estate plan. With the right planning, your gift can secure the financial future of a charity for years to come.