If you're getting organised with estate planning and making a Will, you may be thinking about who you'd like to leave your estate (property and assets) to. If you have children, you'll likely leave them an inheritance. You may even consider gifts to a brother or sister, parents, or another close family member or friend when writing your Will. But have you thought about leaving a philanthropic legacy with a gift or donation to a charity?

This article explains what to include when writing a Will, to ensure your wishes to make a bequest from your estate to your chosen charity are followed.

What is a bequest in a Last Will & Testament?

A bequest is an item that you own, that you wish to give to a nominated beneficiary after your death, as indicated in your Will. As part of the estate planning process, most people make a Will that includes either Specific Bequests, General Bequests, or both.

A Specific Bequest is a gift you are going to specify individually. For example when you nominate a car; a specified amount of money or percentage of your bank account. The gift may be bequested to a specific person, group or organisation.

On the other hand, a General Bequest is when an entire collection of assets is gifted, as per your Last Will & Testament. For example all your furniture, your entire record collection, all your home and contents, or all your wine.

How do I bequest money to charity in my Will?

If you are making a Will, you may wish to leave a part or all of your estate to a particular charity. Writing a Will that includes a gift to a charity is an opportunity for you to make a lasting donation without affecting your financial situation during your lifetime. A bequest to charity is often the largest gift that a person will have ever made, but it may also be a relatively modest donation.

A gift to your nominated charity can be money, property, stocks and/or shares. Here's how to include it while making your Will:

  1. Choose a charitable organisation to receive your bequest.
  2. Determine what type of bequest you will give your chosen charity.
  3. Decide if you will gift money, items, or both.
  4. Indicate the bequest while writing your Will and let your Executor or Next of Kin know.
If you are making a Will, you may wish to leave a part or all of your estate to a particular charity.
If you are making a Will, you may wish to leave a part or all of your estate to a particular charity

What to write in my Will?

To make a bequest to a charity of your choice, and to avoid any possible misunderstanding or argument, it is important to clearly and specifically identify your preferred charity. You must ensure you know the charity’s complete and correct name, so give their Bequests Officer a call before you start writing your Will. You need to ensure you have the correct charity name and address or ABN details. Charities like to have the opportunity to thank donors where they can, so speaking to them in person also gives them the chance to tell you how they intend to use your gift.

When writing a Will, you'll need to nominate the charitable bequest as a Specific Bequest. For example, if you wish to gift $10,000 to Cancer Council Victoria as a Specific Bequest, you might write: I give to Cancer Council Victoria (ABN 61 426 486 715) the sum of $10,000 for its general purposes. It’s important to note that charities sometimes may change names, merge or even disappear altogether. To get around this, you should also add the following line after your charitable bequest: If the gift cannot take effect, then I request my executor to pay the gift to the charitable organisation in Australia which my executor considers most nearly fulfils the objects I intend to benefit.

How do I leave my estate to a charity when writing a Will?

You may instead choose to nominate a percentage of your residual estate, or a percentage of the whole of your estate, rather than a specific dollar amount.

If you choose to leave your entire estate to a nominated charity, ensure you have contacted their Bequests Officer to obtain the correct details to write in your Will.

Once you have those details, the general approach is to write: I give to <charity name> the whole (or x %) of my residuary estate, not otherwise disposed of.

Final thoughts

We hope this guide to including a charity while making a Will helps with your estate planning.

Please note that while this guide will explain what is required to prepare your own legal Will without the need to engage a solicitor, the Will-maker will need to have some knowledge about estate planning, structuring financial affairs, or asset ownership. If your situation is more complex you should seek professional advice.

To learn more, visit the Bare Wills website or chat with our estate team for a free consultation, on 1800 959 371. You can also pre-pay your funeral by calling 1800 202 901 or visiting Bare Prepaid page.

Please note: this article is not legal advice. You should chat with a legal professional for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.