As 2002 comes to a close, individuals throughout the country will begin to review their financial matters and finalize philanthropic commitments. In this article, Elisabeth Straus, executive vice-president/executive director of the American Psychological Foundation (APF), answers questions about an important form of giving that is often not openly discussed: the charitable bequest.
Q. First of all, what is a charitable bequest?
A charitable bequest is essentially a stipulation in the donor's will that states that a certain sum of money or percentage of one's estate be given to a charitable organization, in this case, APF.
Q. Why do people make charitable bequests?
There are various reasons why people want to give. A donor may have a personal connection to an organization or might, quite simply, believe in its mission. Most people make charitable bequests to APF because they want to give back to psychology and see their names and legacies perpetuated in the field to which they have dedicated their lives.
Q. What are the benefits if I were to make a charitable bequest?
Well, there are tax benefits (for example, heirs will not be taxed on a bequest) as well as the benefit of knowing that your life's work will be recognized and celebrated after your death. In a time of financial uncertainty, a donor may feel unsure about making a gift of current assets that may be needed at some point. A bequest ensures that the organization will receive a gift and a donor's resources are intact as long as he or she needs them. A bequest also allows a donor to provide for heirs first and the charitable organization second.
Q. At what age should individuals begin thinking about making a will and including a charitable bequest in it?
The average age to draft a first will is approximately 45. At this time of life, people begin to feel the need to provide for loved ones and to leave a lasting legacy that will benefit others. A will drafted at any age can always be amended or expanded as an individual's life circumstances change.
Q. In general, how would I go about making a bequest?
If you would like to make a charitable bequest, you would ask your attorney to include language in your will expressing your wish to do so. When making a bequest, you have the ability to stipulate that a charitable organization receive a percentage of the estate, a fixed amount of money or the residuary, which is what is left of an estate after all other debts, taxes, expenses and bequests have been fulfilled. Your attorney or tax advisor would be able to instruct you on which bequest would serve you and your heirs in the best possible manner.
Q. Why would I want to consider APF as a beneficiary in my will?
APA Chief Executive Officer Raymond D. Fowler, PhD, best expressed his reason when he amended his will to include APF as a beneficiary: "I wanted to leave a legacy to psychology, and I believed that the best way to make a sizeable gift was through a bequest that would come out of my estate. I felt wonderful making this provision in my will that will advance psychology for many years to come."
APF provides benefits for those who include the Foundation in their estate plans. These individuals become members of APF's Legacy Club, receive preferred seating at the Opening Session at the APA convention and invitations to special Foundation events, and have their names listed in the American Psychologist, the APF newsletter and on the APF Web site (unless requested otherwise).
Q. How can interested individuals contact the foundation?
Individuals interested in making a bequest or other forms of planned giving can contact me at (202) 336-5843; e-mail or Elizabeth Eagar, Foundation Development Associate, at (202) 336-5622.The American Psychological Foundation is a charitable nonprofit (501)(c)(3) organization that provides scholarships, research grants and awards to individuals and groups in order to advance the science and practice of psychology for the understanding of behavior and the benefit of human welfare.
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