A charitable 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, making a charitable bequest is major philanthropy that almost anyone can do. A relatively modest bequest from a middle-income estate – the $30,000 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.
No. You can also give retirement or other investment account balances, life insurance proceeds, stock, real estate, or almost anything of value.
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.
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:
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.
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. 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)
3433 Broadway St NE, Suite 187
Minneapolis, MN 55413
EIN #: 41-6031551
Finally, contact the MMA Foundation and ask to join the MMA Foundation’s Legacy Society.
There are many resources available to help you through the process of setting up a charitable bequest. Here are our favorites.
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.
You can also contact the MMA Foundation for a list of independent planning professionals who have worked with MMAF donors.
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 also find helpful resources at Leave a Legacy Minnesota, including the Leave a Legacy Lesson Book and the Leave A Legacy Record Book.