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7 Steps to Make Charitable Giving Part of Your Estate Plan

Having a plan for your finances after your death is essential.

Through estate planning, you can dictate who will inherit your assets and who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf. The process can often be a whirlwind, as navigating beneficiary designation forms, a will, health-care proxy, durable power of attorney and sometimes, a trust can be overwhelming.

Unfortunately, charitable giving often falls by the wayside. Many people forget to include it in their estate-planning process — or are too confused as to how to best integrate their charitable wishes.

If you're not sure what you want to do with the money you've earned and saved up, think about what you want to leave behind as your legacy.

If your answer is helping and serving others, then consider charitable giving through estate planning. Here are seven strategies on how to include charitable giving into your estate plan.

  1. Leave Money to a Charity in Your Will
    A will specifies what you want to be done with your assets after your death. In addition to identifying who gets what, you can also use a will to designate a charitable bequest and set up trust funds for specific charities. Naming a charity as the beneficiary in your will or living trust is one of the simplest ways to donate to charity through estate planning. Plus, it can lower the amount of your taxable estate and any estate taxes.
  2. Contribute a Charitable Rollover from Your IRA
    While you can name a charity as an IRA beneficiary, you can also choose to make use of a charitable tax break for IRAs now. People can give up to $100,000 per year to charities straight from their IRAs, and the amount can count toward any required minimum distributions (RMDs). RMDs are distributions you're required to take from retirement accounts once you reach a certain age. However, there's a perk to this option: Giving the funds directly to charity from your IRA is considered a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), allowing you to exclude the amount from your income so you don’t pay taxes on it.
  3. Establish a Gift Through a Community Foundation
    When using a community foundation, you can establish a financial legacy through your own charitable fund. It allows you to give any amount you like to almost anyone you want — for however long you want. Community foundations are typically an option for big and small donors to structure their gifts for maximum impact and tax benefits.
  4. Give Your Property
    Not all charitable giving has to be cash. Non-cash gifts, such as real estate, can also be a great way to incorporate charitable giving into your estate plan. For example, if you have a condo, vacation home, farm or ranch, you can gift it to a charity while reserving lifetime use. That way, you can continue to use the property for the rest of your life.
  5. Gift Appreciated Stock
    If you want to make a significant gift to charity, donating appreciated stock is one of the easiest ways to do so, according to Fidelity Charitable. When you donate appreciated stock that's held for more than one year (and thus qualifies for long-term capital-gains treatment), you can avoid paying any capital gains tax on your holdings.
  6. Create a Charitable Remainder Trust
    If you're looking for a way to give back while you're still alive, setting up a charitable remainder trust is another option. This allows you to make donations tax-free and reduce your taxable income. To create a charitable remainder trust, check with your financial planner or accountant, who can help set one up using funds from your other accounts.
  7. Use Life Insurance or a Charitable Gift Rider
    Life insurance is a crucial part of estate planning. Your loved ones can use the proceeds from life insurance to cover funeral or other expenses. However, you can name one or more charities as a beneficiary on your policy. Charitable giving riders are another option. They pay a percentage of the policy's face value to a qualified charity. The riders don't often reduce the cash value or death benefits of the policy, but they can limit how much you can gift this way.


    If you're interested in including charitable giving in your estate plan, talk with your CFP® professional. They can help create a charitable giving strategy and connect you with specific charities that align with your values and interests. You can find more articles authored by CFP® professionals and information on charitable giving and estate planning on To find a CFP® professional to help you integrate estate planning into your financial plan, use the Find a CFP® Professional tool.

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