As an estate planning attorney, I often work with clients who want to include charitable giving as part of their estate plan. There are several options available for leaving money to a charity in your estate plan, and it is important to understand the different methods and choose the one that is best for your situation.

Specific Bequests

One way to leave money to a charity in your estate plan is through a specific bequest. A specific bequest is a specific amount of money or a specific asset that is designated to go to a charity in your will. For example, you might include a specific bequest of $5,000 to the American Heart Association in your will. Specific bequests are often used for charitable giving because they allow you to ensure that a particular charity will receive a specific amount of money or asset without having to worry about other considerations.

Your Residuary Estate

Another option for leaving money to a charity in your estate plan is through a request from your residuary estate. The residuary estate is the portion of your estate that remains after specific bequests and other distributions have been made. If you have concerns about leaving money to family members or other beneficiaries, you can include a request in your will for a portion of your residuary estate to go to a charity. For example, you might specify that one-third of your residuary estate should go to the American Heart Association, one-third should go to the Red Cross, and one-third should go to Cars for Kids.


It is also possible to use both specific bequests and requests from your residuary estate in combination in your estate plan. This can be a good option if you have specific charities that you want to support with a specific amount of money or asset, but also want to ensure that any remaining funds in your estate will go to charitable causes.

In addition to using specific bequests and requests from your residuary estate, there are also other options for charitable giving in your estate plan. One option is to use a charitable trust, which allows you to leave money or property to a charity while still retaining some control over how it is used. Another option is to use a charitable gift annuity, which is a contract in which you agree to make a charitable gift in exchange for a fixed payment for life.

It is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine the best options for your specific situation. With careful planning, you can ensure that your charitable giving goals are achieved and that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes.

Do You Need an Estate Plan?

If you don't already have an estate plan, or if you have one that needs to be updated, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for you to work with an estate planning attorney to get your estate plan prepared.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.