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Charitable Giving in Your Estate Plan

Jun 01, 2015 09:40PM ● By Jennifer Neys

by Daniel DuRee

            Estate planning is an unfortunate necessity in our lives. Most people select children or other family members as sole beneficiaries without much further thought. However, if you are passionate about causes in your community, I encourage you to consider leaving a small part of your estate to support those causes and leave a meaningful local impact. Based on my experience dealing with trust administrations and distributions, there are a number of reasons to consider leaving a small gift to a local cause that you already support.

Minimal Impact to Heirs and Outsized Effect on Your Chosen Cause. Because there are generally multiple beneficiaries, any small amount left to support a local cause results in a very small impact on the inheritance of any one beneficiary. Say, for example, that a person passes away leaving an estate worth six hundred thousand dollars and three adult children beneficiaries. Each child will receive two hundred thousand dollars. Now think if that person left one percent of their estate to a local cause they support. That would leave six thousand dollars to the local nonprofit. To most local groups that is a very substantial amount and can have a large impact on accomplishing their mission.

            Six thousand dollars can feed and educate a lot of children, save a lot of animals, conserve a lot of open space or increase access to the arts for a lot of people. That six thousand dollars can change multiple lives. At the same time, receiving one hundred and ninety eight thousand dollars instead of two hundred thousand dollars for the beneficiaries is probably not going to make a major difference in their life. 

With Modern Medicine Beneficiaries are Older. In the vast majority of cases, “children” are at least in their fifties or sixties when the last surviving parent passes away. I recently had a client I assisted whose son was born in 1940. The client is in great health and her son is seventy-five. We should all be so lucky, but the reality now is that the lives of child beneficiaries are often well established by the time they receive any inheritance, and the impact of that gift has less of an effect on their lifestyle or financial stability. 

Of course not everyone has a local cause they are passionate about and there are often family needs that clearly take precedence. If, on the other hand, there is a local cause that you support and your family has already been provided for, consider leaving a small part of your estate to that cause to create a meaningful and lasting impact on your community.

Daniel L. DuRee is a third generation resident of Contra Costa County and a licensed attorney practicing in Walnut Creek. He can be reached at (925) 210- 1400 or visit



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