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An unfortunate but sometimes inevitable consequence of preparing your Will is that your loved ones start squabbling over who gets what once you die. But apart from family, many people also prefer to leave some or even all of their estate to a worthy charity or charities, which they are perfectly entitled to do. Of course, this course of action won’t necessarily prevent conflicts and in fact, may make matters worse. It’s not wise to make this kind of decision without thinking through all the consequences. Here are some things to consider in doing so:
Let’s say that you definitely want to gift some of your estate to charity. A lawyer specialising in this area can assess your situation, help you decide the best way to do so and craft the language that accurately reflects your wishes.
In all there are four options. The first is to make a residual gift. In this type of arrangement, the charity/charities get whatever is left in your estate after allocations are made to your beneficiaries and any outstanding financial matters have been settled. The second way to leave money to charity is through a specific or pecuniary gift. In this case, you would allocate a certain amount of money, stocks or shares to the charity/charities. The third method is to allocate a fraction or percentage of your estate to the charity or charities of your choice. By using this method, you can account for any changes in the total value of your estate. The fourth and final method is to gift your whole estate to charity.
In addition to legal and financial considerations, there are other matters to think about when leaving money to charity.
With so many worthy groups in Australia, one of the most important considerations when making a gift to charity in your Will is which one to choose. More often than not, people who want to leave money to a charity have had a personal experience that results in a strong affinity for that organisation. Perhaps you volunteered with a charity that helps children with special needs, or a group that provides assistance for people suffering from a specific illness.
If you don’t have a specific group in mind, a deciding factor may be how different charities would use your gift. In this case, you can always contact the charities directly to speak with them in detail. Points of contact are usually available on their websites.
If you have any doubts about the charity that you’d like to leave your money to, double check with your lawyer to make sure it’s legitimate. If you’d rather do your own research, you could also consult Pro Bono Australia’s Guide to Giving, which lists recognised charities.
Finally, think about how your decision to leave some or all of your estate to charity will affect your family. Failing to take their needs into consideration may have unintended consequences, such as leaving them without an adequate means of support, exacerbating conflicts over your estate, or even forcing them to contest your Will.
In summary, there are several ways in which you can leave a gift to charity, and several pros and cons associated with doing so. It’s important, therefore, to get the proper legal advice from a qualified lawyer before making the decision to do so. For a full assessment of your circumstances and to learn more about whether this is the best decision for you, contact us today.
It is important to seek specific advice regarding your circumstances as this fact sheet provides general information only and does not constitute legal advice.
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