By Brendan J. King

Estate planning provides a lasting opportunity to invest in the future and well-being of your loved ones. A thoughtfully-structured estate plan also provides the chance for your life to make a difference in the lives of others through charitable giving. Setting an example of benevolence is one of the greatest legacies you can pass on to your loved ones and has become an important element of estate planning.

Philanthropy is an important part of America’s culture. In fact, America is the most generous nation in the world when it comes to charitable giving. Individuals donate to charities for many reasons that include gratitude to an institution, such as a school or a hospital, that helped them or family member, to help the less fortunate, to sustain a non-profit that they supported during their lifetimes, to defeat an illness/disease, to support cultural institutions, for education and yes, even for tax reduction reasons – just to mention a few.

Among all the difficult and emotional decisions clients must make in the estate planning process, creating and structuring charitable provisions can be an enjoyable and rewarding task. The process begins with a consideration of the charities that are important to you and how you would like to incorporate charitable giving into your plan. The estate planning attorney’s role is to guide you through the various decisions including what kind of bequest you want to make, how much money you want to leave, what (if any) controls or restrictions you want to impose on how the money is used, and whether some sort of charitable structure or vehicle should be  created.

Charitable giving structures commonly used in estate plans today include private foundations, Charitable Remainder Trusts (commonly referred to as CRATs and CRUTS depending on the structure) and Charitable Lead Trusts. Whether and what type of structure to use depends in part on the type of assets being given and the tax and other financial goals of the planning.

Incorporating effective charitable giving into your estate plan can be a challenging process. The good news is that a thoughtfully-structured estate plan, created by a skillful estate planning and asset protection attorney, can ensure that your assets are protected during your life and will be there when you’re gone to continue on safely for the security of your beneficiaries and support of your charitable giving efforts.

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