Maximizing Your Legacy: Strategic Ways to Include Charities in Your Estate Plan

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November 20, 2023 •  The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC
Discover the significance of incorporating planned giving into your estate plan this Thanksgiving. Explore how expressing gratitude through charitable estate planning can create a lasting legacy and bring tax benefits, ensuring your values continue to impact community non-profits for years to come.
Robert W. Haley, managing lawyer
Robert W. Haley
Certified Elder Law Attorney® Robert W. Haley brings over 27 years of legal expertise and knowledge to his firm, which concentrates solely on the areas of elder law, estate planning (Last Will & Testaments, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Trusts, etc.,.) Asset Protection/Medicaid Planning and fiduciary services. For many years, Robert practiced in real estate law, and in general practice, but decided to narrow his focus to elder law and estate planning when he realized the tremendous need for proper planning to be filled in Southside Virginia.

As we approach Thanksgiving, a time marked by gratitude and giving, many of us reflect on what we are thankful for and how we can give back to our community. While it's common to make immediate contributions to non-profits during this season, there's another, often overlooked, avenue of giving that can leave a lasting impact: incorporating planned giving through charitable bequests into your estate plan.

This Thanksgiving, while we gather with loved ones and celebrate the bounties of the year, it's also a prime opportunity to think about the legacy we wish to leave behind. Charitable or planned giving, a component of estate planning, allows us to extend our gratitude and support to community non-profits far beyond our lifetime. It ensures that the causes dear to us continue to thrive and benefit from our generosity for years to come.

Understanding the Impact of Charitable Bequests

Charitable bequests are instructions within a will or estate plan to allocate assets to charitable organizations. These bequests can create a lasting impact, supporting causes and organizations that matter to you long after you're gone. Even modest bequests can significantly contribute to a charity's mission.

Leaving a legacy through charitable bequests is not just for the wealthy. As Sharon Waters highlighted in her AARP article, anyone can make a lasting impact by including charities in their estate plan.

Assessing Your Options for Charitable Giving

There are several ways to include charities in your estate plan:

  • Wills and Trusts: Directly listing charities in your will or trust.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Naming charities as beneficiaries on retirement accounts or life insurance policies.
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts: Providing income to beneficiaries for a period before transferring the remainder to a charity. Read more about this strategy in our article, Charities May Now Be Named As SNT Remainder Beneficiaries.
  • Charitable Gift Annuities: In exchange for a gift, a charity pays a fixed annuity to the donor or another beneficiary.

Tax Implications and Benefits

Charitable bequests can offer tax benefits. Donations of cash, property, or stocks can potentially reduce estate taxes. It's essential to consult with a financial advisor or an experienced estate planning attorney like Robert W. Haley to understand the specific tax implications and benefits based on your estate's size and the nature of your bequest.

Choosing the Right Charities

Selecting charities that align with your values is crucial. Research potential charities for their effectiveness and legitimacy. Tools like Charity Navigator or GuideStar can provide valuable insights into a charity's operations and impact.

The Role of Legal and Financial Advisors

Professional advisors play a critical role in estate planning. They can help navigate complex tax laws and ensure your charitable wishes are honored. If you've already created your estate plan with The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia or another law firm, regular reviews of your plan with our office are essential to keep it aligned with your goals.

Donor-Advised Funds: A Flexible Option

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) offer flexibility. You can contribute to the fund and receive a tax deduction in the same year, then recommend grants to charities over time. This option is ideal for those who wish to maintain flexibility in their charitable giving.

Making Your Charitable Intentions Clear

Ensure your estate documents clearly state your charitable intentions. Specify the charities by their full legal names and consider using percentages rather than fixed amounts to account for value fluctuations in your estate.

The Personal Side of Charitable Bequests

Including a charitable bequest in your estate plan can be deeply fulfilling. It's an opportunity to support causes you care about and leave a positive mark on the world. Consider the broader impact of your giving, beyond the financial aspects.


Incorporating charities into your estate plan requires thoughtful consideration and planning. Consult with our estate planning team by booking a call to begin the process of ensuring your wishes are effectively executed. Remember, the act of giving, as emphasized by Sharon Waters, is significant regardless of the amount. Your charitable bequest can make a meaningful difference.

Additional Resources

For further reading and research on estate planning and charitable giving, consider the following resources:

For professional advice, contact an estate planning attorney experienced in elder law or financial advisors specializing in charitable giving. Curious to learn more? Book a call with us to see how one of our offices in Lynchburg, Bassett or Danville can help you and your family in planning for the future.

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