Charitable Giving – Being Specific with Your Wishes

Many of my clients want to remember certain charities in their Wills or Trusts.  They may say "I want to leave money to my church" or "I’d like to set aside some funds for the Salvation Army" or perhaps another charity that has local and national branches.  One thing to keep in mind when thinking about leaving money to a charity, is that it is important to consider where and how you’d like the funds to be used. 

Your church may have several different locations where the funds can be distributed, and if you want your money to stay in your local parish, you’ll need to make sure it isn’t left to the state or national branch.  You may even be able to specify that you’d like it to be used for a certain purpose at your local level – such as religious education, upkeep of the facilities or other special uses.   Likewise, the Salvation Army and similar charities have both local and national branches.  If you don’t specify where you’d like the funds to go, they very often end up at the national level, even if you wanted them to stay in your community.  If you are leaving funds to a hospital, which are sometimes considered charitable organizations, you can also specify that the funds be used for a particular purpose.   

If you are unsure of your options, you can contact the charity or religious organization yourself to speak to someone in their planned giving department, or you can ask your attorney for assistance.  Many times, the attorney has dealt with bequests to that charity before, and can provide you with some guidance in determining how you’d like the funds to be used.  And, after you’ve made your decision, your attorney will coordinate with the charity to ensure that the appropriate wording is used in your estate planning documents.

When discussing charitable giving with your family, and ultimately with your attorney, make sure you specify where you’d like the funds to be left, and how you’d like them to be used.  This way, you know your wishes will be carried out and that your funds will be used the way you intended. 

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