Charitable giving involves both heart and head

Charitable giving is something some people want to fit into their estate plan. For some, it makes up a large aspect of their plan. For others, it is one consideration among many. Among the more recent charitable causes to become popular is that by nonprofit Invisible Children called 2012. The effort seeks to bring a Ugandan rebel to justice for violations of international law protecting children. Luckily, there are as many possibilities for charitable giving as there are people.

There is no best way to select a charity, but those interested in making charitable giving a part of their estate plan should do some research on the organizations to which they plan to give their money. Luckily, years of attempts by nonprofits to defraud philanthropists have prompted the appearance of organizations like CharityNavigator.org and GuideStar.org, which track the financial health and accountability of nonprofits.

From a financial perspective, there are benefits to working with a reputable charity respected for its efficiency. But financial considerations are only part of what goes into selecting a charity. Sometimes questions of efficiency don't even factor in where there are strong beliefs in an organization's cause.

Regardless of which charitable organizations one selects, though, it is important to understand how that giving fits into one's larger plan, and how one can make the best use of their money.

There are various techniques one can use to make charitable contributions. One of them is to make an outright gift of appreciated stock. In this option, the donated stock is sold by the charity. This allows the charity to receive the money. The donor is able to take a charitable deduction but avoid capital gains tax.

One could also set up a trust, such as a charitable lead trust. In this option, one names one's children as the beneficiaries and donates stock to the trust, which the trust then sells and reinvests with earnings. The charity of choice receives an annual payment during the donor's lifetime, and at the donor's death, the balance of the trust goes to the donor's children.

Or one could set up a charitable remainder trust, which allows one's family to receive funds and the charity to receive the remainder. Tax savings in this vehicle can be great.

Whatever chartable cause one decides to go with, it is worth looking into the various gifting options so that the best use of one's money is made.

Source: Forbes, "Should Kony 2012 Be Part of Your Retirement or Estate Plans?," Robert Laura, March 9, 2012

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