A bequest is simply a gift made by naming a person or organization in your will. You can specify a particular amount, or you can leave a percentage of your total estate.
You do not have to be wealthy to make a gift that will have a noticeable impact. In fact, a charitable bequest is major philanthropy that almost anyone can do.
A relatively modest bequest from a middle-income estate – the $25,000 minimum gift that creates a named fund – will continue to have impact long into the future. And, with good stewardship, will actually grow over time.
Making a will is an important first step, but one that most Minnesotans avoid. And though about 90% of us say we would like to leave a charitable bequest to a favorite charity, only about 10% actually do. (Thank you for considering it!) Many just never take the few simple steps to get started.
Why is a will important?
Without a will, state laws govern how your property, your money, and any special valuables are distributed. That might be OK with you for now, but you might not agree with your state’s decisions as the laws - or your family circumstances - change over time.
Without a will there are no provisions in state law to express your personal values, or to give back, through a bequest to your favorite causes or charitable organizations, to those who helped you or your loved ones.
A will makes your intentions clear.
A will ensures that your estate is used as you want it to be, for example,
To care for your surviving spouse
Provide for the care of your minor children and name a guardian for them
Provide instructions if both you and your spouse die at the same time
Set up a trust to care for a disabled child throughout his or her life
Give a special item to a friend or a relative who is not your spouse or child
Support organizations that helped you along the way or made a difference for you or your family
In some circumstances a charitable bequest can even increase the amount your heirs receive from your estate. (An estate planning professional can advise you if that is true in your case and guide you about how best to proceed.)
Things change in life. And so can the beneficiary designations in your will. Beneficiary designations are revocable throughout your lifetime. So if things change, you can change or adjust your beneficiaries to suit the new circumstances.
Does a charitable bequest have to be cash?
No. You can also give retirement or other investment account balances, life insurance proceeds, stock, real estate, automobiles, musical instruments or almost anything of value.
How do I get started?
First, make a list of your assets (The Leave A Legacy Record Book helps you through this process.)
Then, make a list of the people and organizations you wish to receive them (your beneficiaries).
Set up an appointment with your financial analyst or attorney, MMA Foundation staff, or a gift officer at one of the other nonprofits you wish to support. Tell them what you want to accomplish and they can sensitively guide you through the process. If you want suggestions about estate or financial planning professionals in your area, visit the Minnesota Planned Giving Council’s professional referral directory, which is searchable by Industry/Services, City/Town, and ZIP Code.
Leave a Legacy is a national program that provides information and resources to donors and nonprofit organizations who wish to promote charitable giving through wills or other estate plans. You can find helpful resources at Leave a Legacy Minnesota, including the Leave a Legacy Lesson Book and the Leave A Legacy Record Book.
Sample charitable bequest language can be found on the Leave A Legacy website. Be sure to identify the charitable organization correctly. For example, the MMA Foundation is formally known as:
Minnesota Medical Association Foundation
[or the Foundation of the Minnesota Medical Association]
1300 Godward St NE, Suite 2300
Minneapolis, MN 55413
EIN #: 41-6031551
You can also contact the MMA Foundation for a list of independent planning professionals who have worked with MMAF donors.
Finally, contact the MMA Foundation, and ask to join the MMA Foundation’s Legacy Society.