The question of whether my clients could leave money to their church or synagogue in their estate planning comes up at a few consultations. In Minnesota (and most other states), for people who are involved in their religious community, this is a great way to give back. The legal term for giving money under the will is a bequest. It is the act of giving assets or property to a specific individual or organization. Depending on how your will is written, you may or may not have specific bequests for how your assets are to be distributed.
How Do I Do It?
There are two common ways that I’ve seen people leave a bequest to their house of worship. The first way is with a specific bequest in their will or trust. This normally says you leave $____ to your house of worship. The second way is to leave a bequest from your residuary estate (what’s leftover after your other specified distributions). This type of bequest commonly comes when there is part of your estate that is leftover because the people who were supposed to inherit the property are unable to inherit it. An example of this is if you leave everything to your brother, but your brother dies before you. In that case, rather than have the state where you live choose where your assets go, you can designate your house of worship to receive it.
Ask Your Church Or Synagogue
The first thing I suggest to anyone considering this is to ask them. Most houses of worship have an individual in charge of managing bequests. They probably already have a booklet or information sheet on the process. Many even have the exact wording of a provision that you can just have your attorney place into your will. If they have specific projects or capital campaigns, the language may even specifically direct where your bequest should be spent.
You may also find that you are the first person to ask that question. In which case, you may be the vanguard who spearheads a new source of revenue for your house of worship! You may spur them to create a program for legacy donations and your legacy will live on helping them grow for the future.
If you don’t have a will yet, or if you have one that you may need to update to create a bequest for your church or synagogue, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you.