Lots of questions. Here are a few:
Is the federal estate tax a concern?
- Is state law a planning consideration?
- Does the donor want to bequeath a specific dollar amount or a specific asset or a percentage of his or her residuary estate?
- Does the donor want to create a restricted endowment?
- Does the donor want to provide an income to a survivor, such as his or her spouse?
The writer of this blog is a traditionalist who uses the term “bequest” to mean a gift by will. Which potentially raises another important question:
Is there anyone in the picture (son or daughter, for example) who may well challenge the validity of the donor’s will?
If there is, great care needs to be taken, depending on the likely nature of a challenge. For example, if capacity is likely to be an issue, the donor may want to be examined by a physician before making his or her will. In this area—where a will contest may loom—a key player is the donor’s lawyer, and the donor must rely on his or her lawyer to establish a bulwark against a challenge to the will.
One thing’s for sure: a charity should be very careful about suggesting language for the donor’s will, out of fear that a future challenger of the will may use the suggested language as evidence of undue influence. Any such suggested language should be provided with the caveat that the language is merely suggested and is provided for the independent consideration of the donor’s lawyer.
There’s a flip side to this discussion of will contests that’s important to mention. It’s that in some situations, charitable beneficiaries may wish to challenge a deceased donor’s will. This can happen when predators got to a vulnerable donor late in life and got him or her to make a last-minute will change in favor of the predators and to the charitable beneficiary’s detriment.
More about bequests and bequest planning next time.
By Jon Tidd, Esq
Sharpe Group has several donor communication tools to help you inform your constituency about giving through wills, including booklets and brochures: How to Make a Will That Works, Giving Through Your Will, How to Protect Your Rights With a Will, 37 Things People “Know” About Wills That Aren’t Really So, Questions & Answers About Wills and Bequests, How a Will Works for You, The State Has Made Your Will, Has Congress Changed Your Will? and You Never Need to Change Your Will Unless …