Campaign seeks to boost charitable giving in wills

A national campaign wants to take charitable giving via a will mainstream.

Will Power, which is led by the Canadian Association of Gift Planners and supported by at least 500 charities, has set itself the goal of raising $40 billion through testamentary charitable gifts by Canadians over the next decade.

Its research suggests around five per cent of Canadians currently include a charity in their estate plan, but hopes to hit its fundraising target by boosting that figure to 8.5 per cent by 2030. 

In a statement, CAGP’s CEO Ruth MacKenzie said that ordinary Canadians shouldn’t view their bequests as a choice between their loved ones and their favourite causes. 

“You may be surprised to learn that even 1% left to charity in your Will can have an enormous impact on your cause, while still leaving 99% of your estate to your family,” she said.

“The main objective of WillPower is to give people a new way of thinking about donating to charity,” added Laurie Fox, the campaign’s director. “A Will is much more than a legal document to distribute personal assets. It’s also a powerful tool to make change in the world.”  

The campaign also highlights the potential tax benefits of a charitable gift. Estates are subject to different tax rules than individuals, so it can take some work to figure out the most tax efficient way to make a donation. But with the assistance of a good lawyer and accountant, you can put together an estate plan perfectly tailored to your individual situation.

In my own practice, I’ve helped testators from all walks of life and varying degrees of wealth leave generous gifts to their favourite charities and non-profits. 

Whatever the size or nature of your planned donation, it’s best to let the charity know your plans, so that there are no misunderstandings about the terms of the gift. 

For example, when people donate real estate, charities typically accept the bequest in cash after the property has been sold by the estate trustee. However, some property may be of use to the charity and they may prefer to keep it if consulted ahead of time.

Smaller institutions may also be more open to the views of potential donors on specific uses their money could be put to after they’re gone. 

While charities are unlikely to have many issues with a surprise gift, it’s a different story when it comes to your beneficiaries. Many people leave money to charities when they have no other close family, but if there are others expecting an inheritance, the chance of an expensive estates dispute can be reduced by giving them some warning about your plans ahead of time.   

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