By Gregory T. Demers
Partner, Warner Norcross + Judd LLP
In today’s charged political climate, more and more clients are asking about ways to support charitable causes such as those championed by the Mackinac Center, not only through lifetime giving, but also in their estate plan.
The most common technique to benefit charities in an estate plan is to include the charity as a beneficiary under a revocable living trust. Other less common, but often equally viable methods, include designating the charity as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement account.
For this article, however, I will focus on techniques I have used a number of times with clients to include the Mackinac Center as a beneficiary under their revocable living trust.
A revocable living trust serves as a roadmap for distributing your assets at your death. This trust names the person responsible for paying all debts and expenses, and the persons and organizations to whom remaining assets are distributed. It is the instrument of choice to implement estate planning goals.
This trust is revocable (changeable) while you are alive and competent, and is an effective method to avoid having a probate court involved in your affairs after your death.
When a client asks me for specifics about including charities in an estate plan, our discussion typically focuses on the following.
Would the bequest be a percentage of the client’s remaining assets after death or a fixed dollar amount? For ease of administration, my general recommendation to clients is to provide for a fixed dollar amount to pass to the charity.
Another topic we discuss is whether the client wants to give the charity’s board of directors full discretion on how to best use the bequest, or whether the client wants the bequest to support a specific interest within the organization’s charter.
Endowment funds are another method of giving. These are a perpetual bequest, with only the income or earnings used by the charitable organization.
Just as there are a number of techniques available to make a gift during one’s lifetime, supporters of the Mackinac Center have many options for including the Center in their estate plan.
Demers is a specialist in business and estate planning law and is the featured speaker at Mackinac Center Planning for Life Workshops. He also is a member of the Mackinac Center Legacy Society. If you would like to learn more about making a gift to the Center in your estate plan, please call 989-631-0900 and ask to speak to a member of the Advancement Department.