3 Legacy Giving Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Will

My husband and I have each had “get a proper will” on our personal to-do lists for an embarrassingly long time. We initially each started with a very simple will that we did online. We knew we both wanted to create a more detailed estate plan eventually, but figured having simple wills set up to take care of our son and name the wills’ executors was much better than having no wills at all.*

Fast-forward to today, and we are now finally working on what I like to call “Will 2.0.” In this new and improved version, we are adding more details to our will documentation. We also set up a time to speak with a lawyer about incorporating legacy giving into our updated will. Also called “planned giving,” legacy giving is incorporated into your estate plan or will and includes any organizations you would like to give money or other assets to upon death. 

We value the longevity of the organizations we are already giving to today.

We figured including them in our detailed will was one way to ensure they are able to keep doing the work we care about long after we have passed away. But deciding which causes to support and/or how much to set aside for each organization requires some pre-planning and thought. Here are the questions we’ve been asking ourselves as we determine which organizations will be included. 


Talking about your plans for the future and reasons for considering planned giving make for delightful coffee-fueled, Saturday morning chats.


What kind of legacy do we (I) want to leave?

As we began the thought process around both planned giving and regular charitable giving within our family, the question of legacy came up. I liked how imagining the future we want to leave behind helped narrow our focus as we planned. For us, the legacy we want to leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and the world of people after us is the deciding factor when it comes to any donations we plan or make, particularly in our will or trust. We decided to look at it from the scope of: 

  • What do we want the world to be like for future generations of our family?
  • What can we do now and in the future to help make that happen?
  • What specific causes can we donate time, money or talents to and make an impact?

These causes, and the difference we can make to them, are our legacy. 

What organizations, people, or causes do we (I) have a “heart and spirit connection” with?

For an organization to “make the cut,” so to speak, there needs to be a connection to either me or my husband. The connection needs to be deeply felt—not just logical on paper. It also needs to meld with our faith and our minds. This helps us know if a person, cause, or organization is one we’d like to give to. Since legacy giving is long-term, we apply one more layer to the discussion—the selection of the organization itself in addition to the cause or mission.

Which organizations will carry out the legacy we (I) want to leave?

In an earlier post about being a parent and planning a will, I talked about how my husband and I asked ourselves this question: what causes are important to us? These are causes we pray about in a number of ways: 

  • For its leaders
  • That the money we give will be used wisely
  • For the recipients of the services or funds
  • That the money we give will be impactful

We found that it’s important to recognize that planned giving is a partnership both you and the receiving organization are in. You need trust in the organization to feel comfortable including them in planned giving plans. You need to know that they will continue to operate and maintain the mission you believe in. Having a strong partnership between yourself and the organizations you support reinforces your decision to include them in your will or trust over the coming years.

Once you have discussed these questions with your spouse or a trusted friend or family member it’s time to take action and make your plans a reality.

Treat yourself! A fun beverage of your choice is a great way to celebrate crushing a serious adulting task with your spouse.

Next Steps: Setting Up a Will Beneficiary

A beneficiary can be set up in your will or trust when you first create it. To do so, speak with a professional attorney skilled in estate or will planning to ensure the addition follows all laws for your particular state. You’ll also able to modify your will in the future. 

We also recommend telling the beneficiary—the receiving person, organization, or cause—that you’ve included them in your will. That way, they can give you any pertinent information you may need, and thank you appropriately for your gift. 

Read more about planning your legacy giving and beneficiaries in our ebook on this topic. 

*In Wisconsin and several other states you are required to have your own personal will. 


Post a comment

Please correct the following: