Bequest Planning Ensures a Legacy of Values and Philanthropy
By Joel Levine
According to research conducted by Russell James, a professor at Texas Tech University, the majority of individuals like the idea of leaving a portion of the remainder of their assets to the organizations that they care about. They feel like it is demonstrates their values and role-modeling philanthropy.
But estate planning is something that few people jump for joy about tackling, and as a result, most people do not have adequate documents in place in case something should happen to themselves or a loved one.
The focal point of most estate plans is the will. A will can serve many purposes, including providing instructions on what happens to your estate upon your passing. A common provision in wills is the bequest, the act of giving specific property or assets to an individual or organization through your will. Many people draft a bequest to benefit a charitable organization that they have been involved with in their life and wish to continue with a philanthropic gift from their estate.
A bequest can be made several ways. A gift of a percentage of your estate, a gift of a specific asset or dollar amount, or a gift from the balance or remainder of your estate are the most common ways to make a bequest.
A bequest can be as short as a few lines identifying the organization you wish to leave a bequest to and how you want that gift to be calculated. It can also be more detailed given the complexity of the gift, possible tax issues to your estate, and your philanthropic desires.
How Do I Make a Bequest?
If you do not have a current will, meet with an estate planning attorney, mention that you would like to make a specific bequest and begin that discussion. If you have already made a decision as to an individual or organization you want to bequeath a gift to, you are one step ahead of the game.
If you already have a recently executed will and wish to add a bequest to it, you may not need to have to spend the time and money to draft a whole new will. A codicil is essentially an amendment to the will, without having to re-draft the entire document. If you are looking to add a bequest to an existing estate plan, it is advised that you contact your estate planning attorney regarding the need to re-draft the entire will document or if a codicil will suffice.
When dealing with bequests from your estate, if you have a sizeable or complex estate, it is advised to meet with a lawyer, accountant and financial advisor to make sure taxable consequences are considered. However, in most situations, it is a very simple process to add a bequest to an existing estate plan or include it in one that you are creating. ■
If you are interested in making a legacy gift, the Jewish Foundation of Austin & Central Texas, a branch of Shalom Austin, is here to help you demonstrate your values to your favorite Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. If you need assistance with this, contact Mariben Ramsey at (512) 735-8010 or visit shalomaustin.org/foundation.