Many people want to leave a gift to a favored charity. But when they look into the options, they start hearing about complex vehicles with scary names, like “net income with makeup charitable remainder unitrust.” NIMCRUT, anyone?

The most common way to leave money to a charity, with a “bequest” (the assets that you promise to give away after you die) requires you to create or adjust your will. This scares off many potential donors.

But, there are simple ways to arrange to leave money to your favorite organization. These require little or no paperwork, professional advice or complicated planning. We always suggest that you should work with an advisor, but once you determine that these methods are appropriate for you, they are easy and free to execute.

Everyone is used to making a “pledge,” but these are usually due to be paid soon thereafter. Did you know that you can make a pledge that is payable-on-death? This is simply a bill that comes due when your estate is being settled. During your lifetime, you can revoke the pledge at any time, but upon your death it has to be paid by your executor.

Without changing your will, you can name your favorite charity as a beneficiary of any financial asset, such as a bank account, an insurance policy, an individual retirement account or your donor advised fund. This just requires a form you sign to indicate what should happen when you die. Keep a copy of the beneficiary form so your executor will know where that asset is to go.

Charitable gifts paid directly from your IRA provide the greatest tax savings, both during your life and upon your death. Work with your IRA manager to arrange for a charitable beneficiary of your IRA to maximize the tax savings, or rollover IRA money to your charities at any time to save the taxes now. Be sure the money goes straight from your account to the charity.

A charitable gift annuity is like a special bank account that pays you or a designated beneficiary annual guaranteed lifetime income, at rates based on your age and usually much higher than you can earn with investments. The money is given to your designated charity as a gift, and the residual remains with the charity when you die. Ask your charity for an illustration of a able gift annuity based on your situation.

“Just do it” is the famous Nike slogan that fits here. Enjoy knowing that you will be making the world a better place, while keeping your planning very simple.


Joel Fox is executive director of the Menorah Park Foundation in Beachwood.

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