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Can I Give Money to Charities in my Will?

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624339_hands.jpgYes, definitely. Many of our clients want to leave some of their money to one or more charities at their death. Usually these gifts are made by way of a “specific bequest” – a gift of a specific amount of money to a particular charity upon your death or, if you die before your spouse or partner, at his or her death. For example, as a breast cancer survivor, if I wanted to give money to a local charity involved in the fight against breast cancer, my Will might state: “I give and bequeath the sum of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) to the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, presently located at 125 S. 9th Street, Suite 202, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.” Or if my husband and I want to give a total of $5,000 to the same charity, in each of our Wills we could write: “If my spouse predeceases me, I give and bequeath the sum of $5,000 to the…”

In some circumstances, it makes more sense to define the gift as a percentage of your total estate instead of as a specific dollar amount. In that case, I could provide that 10% of my residuary estate would go to the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the balance of my estate to my children.

Other clients only want to leave some or all of their money to charity if their entire family, spouse or partner and children die at the same time. I often add such a “wipe out” clause to a Will, especially when the family members travel together frequently.

What Charities Should I Choose?

When choosing the charities to leave your money to, give to the causes that you are most passionate about, reflecting on what makes you unique or what brings you the most 1159995_outcast_3.jpgjoy or what has shaped your life. My passions include Girls Inc. of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. I am one of three daughters, and my husband and I have two daughters and a granddaughter. Girls Inc. helps local girls strive to be strong, smart and bold – what an incredible mission! Another passion is the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center – a group that archives the history of the Jewish people in our local area. While our Jewish heritage is important to my husband and me, even more significant is the impact of Jews on the local history of greater Philadelphia, where my husband and I have both lived for our entire lives. Another passion is the Jenkintown Library – I am an avid reader and a Montgomery County resident who has enjoyed borrowing books from there. As you can tell, our charitable interests make clear the things that are of great import to us – females, the greater Philadelphia area, religion, history and books.

In our latest Wills, my husband and I left our estates to the survivor of us and then to our children. However, if we all die at the same time, we have included wipe out clauses in our Wills, leaving money to our siblings, living mothers and then to our “passions” – the charities that are so significant to us on a personal basis.

We have chosen “smaller” charities, where our bequest will help actual people or actual programs, instead of helping the charity build another building or provide the head of the charity with a larger salary. Since there are many charities supporting similar causes, in picking your charity, check into its finances to determine if it spends most of its money on service activities (the recommendation is that at least 65% of the expenses be for this purpose) or on administrative or other expenses.

There are many good causes deserving of support. You should discuss your wishes with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure your Will gives what you want to both your loved ones and those charities supporting your “passions.” Send me an e-mail if you have questions about charitable giving in Pennsylvania.

Bonnie Smith Moses
E-Mail Bonnie Smith Moses
215-496-2902
Hope Bosniak Sam Rossittto
E-Mail Hope Bosniak E-Mail Sam Rossitto
215-496-2914 215-242-3830
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