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Leaving meaningful legacies in Florida estate plans

Some West Palm Beach residents undoubtedly feel that imparting a legacy of meaningful values to relatives is more important than the amount of the relatives' inheritance. With that in mind, estate planners in Florida may be interested to hear that testamentary gifts to non-profits increased almost 19 percent in 2010. As the baby boomer generation considers its estate planning goals, more and more people are finding that a gift to charity upholds the values instilled by their life experiences.

Incorporating a charitable gift into an estate plan may have practical advantages, but such a gift also gives many people the good feeling of having planned for one last act of benevolence. For individuals without close family, a charitable bequest may be far more appealing than the distribution of assets to distant relatives through probate court administration.

As charities increasingly rely on private contributions in the wake of dwindling public funds, most of these organizations will welcome any gift, large or small. One Broward County animal care organization appreciated a $5,000 gift that was used to help fund shelters. In that same vein, one Palm Beach County woman designated over $1 million to organizations caring for abused and abandoned animals. Other popular charity beneficiaries include colleges, children's organizations, and charities supporting the arts.

Estate planners in South Florida should be aware of the options for bequeathing estate assets to charitable organizations. All of a person's end-of-life wishes can be laid out clearly in estate planning documents such as living wills and trusts. It is important, then, to know which document is best for a particular purpose.

Source: Bradenton Herald, "Bequeathing money to causes, not people," Donna Gehrke-White, June 11, 2012

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