Legacy giving: A conversation that’s full of opportunity

Did you know that August is National Make-A-Will Month?

Charitable giving is an important part of any estate planning conversation. Bold estate plans are frequently in the news because of the high-profile people who establish them, but anyone can leave a legacy to support their favorite charitable causes, including your client. 

By discussing what charitable legacy gifts are and how they work, what the client has in mind and formalizing the client’s plan with proper documentation, you can help your clients tie up a few of “life’s loose ends” far in advance of when that gift is made—and give your client clear peace of mind.

Clients’ charitable giving intentions and the possibility of establishing legacy gifts should be a routine and standard topic of any financial or estate planning discussion, right alongside provisions in an estate plan for family and loved ones. Here’s a primer to help you simplify key principles as you convey to your clients what they need to know about leaving a legacy:


Q: What is a legacy gift to a charity?
A: Encourage your clients to think of leaving a charitable legacy as a post-life gift that the client structures in advance. Legacy gifts are often referred to as planned giving. 


Q: What assets can be used to make a legacy gift? 
A: Like the gifts to charity that your clients are already making during their lifetimes, cash, stock (especially highly-appreciated stock), real estate, life insurance, an IRA beneficiary designation (which is extremely tax effective), are examples of assets that can be the subject of a legacy gift. A legacy gift can be expressed in a client’s estate planning documents as a dollar amount, percentage of the whole or a legacy gift of the assets themselves.


Q: How is a legacy gift actually made? 
A: Legacy gifts are typically spelled out in detail in a client’s will or trust documents. This is especially important because after the client’s lifetime, too much is otherwise potentially subject to hearsay or conflict. To attorneys, accountants and financial advisors, this is common sense, but do not overestimate your clients’ understanding about estate plans and how they work—two out of three Americans have no estate planning documents.


Q: How can a discussion about legacy gifts help motivate clients?
A: Estate planning can be an uncomfortable topic as it requires a client to contemplate mortality. (This is likely part of the reason that 40 percent of Americans say they won’t even consider putting a will in place unless or until their life is in danger.) Most clients think charitable giving is a much more pleasant topic than discussing the end of their own lives. That’s why legacy giving is a topic that can help break the ice and pave the way for the broader, essential conversation about overall estate planning.  


Q: What are some particulars to be aware of?
A: Most legacy gifts can be revoked or altered through beneficiary or will changes while the client is alive. This is an important feature to mention to clients who want to include charitable giving in their estate plans but like the idea of flexibility as the overall family and financial picture changes over the years. 


Q: What tools does GCF offer to help?
A: A particularly useful technique is for a client to establish a “future fund” at GCF which spells out the client’s wishes for charitable distributions upon death to specific organizations. The client’s estate planning documents can, in turn, simply name Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the fund name as the beneficiary of charitable bequests. The client can adjust the terms of the fund anytime during the client’s lifetime by revising the future fund agreement (without changing their will) to reflect evolving charitable priorities.


Greater Cincinnati Foundation staff can work with you to accomplish your client’s goals around legacy giving through their estate plans.

Advisor Resources for Legacy Giving