Phi·lan·thro·py is defined in the English Dictionary as “altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.”
Donations to charity via a will are a main source of income for many Canadian charities. Money left to charities through these bequests have a major impact on the work charities are able to do and is extremely important to all sorts of charitable causes.
As a wills and estates lawyer, I often assist my clients with structuring their bequests to a charity or charities of their choosing.
For the most part, philanthropic clients will either (1) leave a specific sum of money to a charity or charities of their choice prior to distributing the residue of their estate, or (2) distribute their entire estate to charity.
Less philanthropic clients, who at least want to mention a charity in their will, may distribute their estate among friends and family in its entirety, stating that if none of their beneficiaries are alive when they pass away (for example if there has been a ‘common disaster’ such as a family cruise and the ship sinks) then their estate shall be left to charity. Arguably, this is not philanthropic at all because the likelihood of all family members pre-deceasing the testator is slim, meaning that the charity will very likely never see any money from the testator at all.
Deciding how you distribute your hard earned money is an emotional and complex process. There is obviously not only one way of doing it. Some folks believe that they work hard all their lives so that the children they leave behind can afford to do the things that they themselves never could. Other folks take the view that the children they leave behind should work hard, just as they did, and not be given an ‘easy ride’ through a large inheritance. These are the folks who like to leave large sums to charity—often much to the displeasure of the relatives they leave behind.
Whether you leave money to charity in your will, help a stranger on the street or donate your precious time to charity all are fundamentally important to our society and enable charities to continue to do the amazing work that they do.
Executing an up to date will that reflects your current wishes will not only provide you with peace of mind, but it will minimize the costs of probating and administering your estate, which in turn will maximize the inheritance your beneficiaries will receive, charity or otherwise.