Leaving a true legacy: Giving to charity as part of your estate planning

A notary can help update your will if you want to add a charitable donation in your estate planning.

Canadians love to give back. In fact, according to CanadaHelps.org, more than 968,000 Canadians gave more than $465 million on CanadaHelps to 31,700 charities in 2021. But did you know that you can also include a charitable donation in your will and leave behind a legacy that is quite substantial?

“Canadians are trained to give to charities with the limited cash we have on hand, but I don’t think people realize that you can do more for the causes you care about by planning a gift in your will,” said Laurie Fox, who is a campaign director with Will Power, a national public education campaign that is designed to inspire Canadians to think differently about charitable giving and help them to create positive change through their wills. Will Power offers services that make it easy for people to designate and change charities they want to give to from their estate without costly notary fees. The process can be as simple as adding a line or two to your existing will with instructions on where you want your charitable donation to go. “For the most part, people choose a charity they’ve been giving to their whole life, so they typically have a relationship with that charity.”

Leaving a true legacy: Giving to charity as part of your estate planning

Giving just 1 per cent of your estate to a charity can mean a substantial five-figure donation. 

One of the huge advantages of this charitable option is that you can give a sizeable donation by bequeathing a very small portion of your estate. “People can give a lot more through their estate and will than they can over the course of their lifetime,” Fox explained. For example, on average, people typically donate around $500 a year to a charity, “But if you think about your estate, the value of your house, and all your investments and savings, that is a huge amount of money. So, when you leave 1 per cent of your estate to a charity, it becomes this huge five-figure gift. And you’re still leaving 99 per cent of your estate to your children and grandchildren. Who doesn’t want to be that big philanthropist who can give that amount of money?”

A notary or lawyer can easily make the addendum to a will to include a charitable donation. If you need help figuring out how much one or two per cent of your estate is, you can visit the Will Power website and use their legacy calculator to crunch the numbers. “There are also little financial tricks a financial advisor can use to actually help you save on estate taxes because of the charitable contribution,” Fox said.

The other benefit of leaving a portion of your estate to a charity or two is that it can be a wonderful way to keep that person’s memory alive in a meaningful and palpable way. “It is really a way to remember that person and it’s a wonderful, heartwarming memory.”

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