Beneficiary Designations – The Easiest of All Planned Gifts

Community Foundation Corner

Quad Cities Community Foundation

By Anne Calder, Vice President of Development

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People we visit with sometimes think that a planned or estate charitable gift needs to be complicated or expensive to set up. They’re surprised when I tell them the most often used planned charitable gift is also the easiest—a simple beneficiary designation.

Nearly all financial assets, from bank accounts and retirement accounts to annuities, investment accounts, and insurance policies, come with beneficiary designation forms. These forms, which you fill out when you open these accounts, allow you to name who will get these assets after your lifetime. These assets most often pass as transfer on death (TOD), outside of any will, trust, or even probate matters.

While loved ones are often identified as beneficiaries, you can also make your favorite charities beneficiaries of all of an asset or a percentage, shared with other beneficiaries. And here’s the great part—setting up a charitable beneficiary costs nothing and is easy as logging into your account portal or visiting your account provider. That’s it!

The most important thing to remember about beneficiary designations—make a plan to review all your beneficiary designation forms annually. It’s good to remind yourself of those passive plans and to revisit them throughout life’s many changes to make sure they still fit and don’t conflict with any other documented plans in your will or trust. Sometimes you find a beneficiary is no longer living or no longer needs that financial gift, so there is opportunity to designate the asset to another loved one or to the charitable nonprofit close to your heart. I also recommend telling the nonprofit about your intention, as it helps them plan for the future and gives them a chance to thank you in advance for your generosity!