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Back to basics: Reminding Clients About Wills, Trusts, and Charitable Bequests

August is National Make a Will Month, and the publicity surrounding this designation may prompt your clients to ask you about whether their affairs are in good order. Of course, making sure a client has established an estate plan and executed corresponding legal documents is a priority for any attorney, accountant, or financial advisor who practices in the field of estate planning, tax, or wealth management. Still, it’s always helpful to remind clients to keep their estate plans up to date and review their plans with you on a regular basis.

Despite the many cautionary tales arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, most Americans do not have a will. Even those clients who do have estate plans in place may not truly understand the difference between a will and a trust (and the reason they still need a will even if they have a revocable living trust). A client also may not understand that a charitable bequest can be part of an estate plan whether the client’s main estate planning vehicle is a will or a trust. 

Of the $485 billion given to charity by Americans in 2021, $46 billion or 9.5% of that giving came from bequests, according to Giving USA. Giving USA’s data visualization tool illustrates the ebbs and flows of bequest giving, which has long been a significant component of philanthropy.

Research reveals psychological factors behind a person’s decision to leave a bequest, which helps to understand the motivation for leaving a gift to a charitable organization in a will or trust. Not surprisingly, altruism has long been one of those factors. Bequests to charity are not a new idea and examples of high profile estate gifts date back centuries. Some of your clients may be familiar with the bequests of Benjamin Franklin, who established testamentary charitable trusts dedicated to supporting Boston and Philadelphia tradesmen, and George Washington, who left bequests in his will to colleges and trade schools.

The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County welcomes the opportunity to work with you and your clients to establish bequests to your clients’ funds at CFAAC through a will, trust or a beneficiary designation on a qualified retirement plan or life insurance policy. We can help provide you with proper bequest language to ensure alignment with your client’s intentions.

Make a Will Month is also a good time to remind your clients that bequests of qualified retirement plans can be extremely tax-efficient. For example, if a client bequests funds from a retirement plan directly to their CFAAC fund after their death, these funds will not be subject to income tax or estate tax.

We look forward to working with you to establish your clients’ philanthropic legacies. Contact us at or 410.280.1102.

You can also review our Estate Planning Guide here.



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