How do you want to be remembered after you die? A woman named Glenda Taylor DeLawder wanted her love and care of cats and dogs to be what people remembered her for, so she gave $1.2 million to care for animals in her community in her estate plan. On Christmas Day, the county where the late Ms. DeLawder had lived announced her generous gift, and explained that plans were already underway to spend part of the money expanding the local animal shelter and buying a van for the shelter to use. Her legacy will live on for many years and the lives of many animals will be improved thanks to her heartfelt last wishes.
If you are thinking about leaving money or other assets to an organization that you care about in your estate plan, here are a few things to consider.
First, although surprises can be fun, you and your estate planning attorney should tell the organizations you want to leave assets to your plans. Some organization have to turn down gifts that are offered to them because they do not have the resources necessary to accept the terms under which a gift is being offered to them. By communicating your plans to an organization you want to benefit before you finalize your estate plan, they can tell you what their areas of greatest need are, and make plans for how they can best use your gift.
You should also tell your loved ones about your charitable plans. If you leave $100,000 to Fluffy and Friends Animal Shelter, and nothing to your grandchildren, is your family going to be okay with that? Some families are, and some aren’t, and you won’t be there to tell them whether you did what you did on purpose, or whether you had been meaning to update your estate plan when your children started having children, but never got around to it.
Think about how your gift fits in with the rest of your estate plan. If you don’t have a lot of liquid assets, maybe you should give a percentage of your estate rather than a set amount so that your estate administrator does not have to rush the sale of assets.
Make sure you have a backup or alternate named in your plan in case your gift cannot be given to your first-choice organization. For example, if say you want to give $10,000 from your estate to Fluffy and Friends Animal Shelter, but by the time you die that shelter has gone out of business or changed its name, what should happen? Do you want your gift to go to another local animal shelter? To a national organization that cares for animals? Or would you rather the gift not be made at all? Make it easy on your estate administrator and explain what your preferred alternative to the organization you name would be.