National “Make a Will” Month: Reminding Clients About Wills, Trusts and Charitable Bequests

August is National Make a Will Month, and the publicity surrounding this designation may prompt your clients to ask you about whether their affairs are in good order.

A document titled "Last Will and Testament" sits on a table with reading glasses and a pen.Of course, making sure a client has established an estate plan and executed corresponding legal documents is a priority for any attorney, accountant or financial advisor who practices in the field of estate planning, tax or wealth management. Still, it’s always helpful to remind clients to keep their estate plans up to date and review their plans with you on a regular basis.

Indeed, despite the many cautionary tales arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans do not have a will. Even those clients who do have estate plans in place may not truly understand the difference between a will and a trust (and the reason they may still need a will even if they have a revocable living trust). A client also may not understand that a charitable bequest can be part of an estate plan, whether the client’s main estate planning vehicle is a will or a trust.

Of the $485 billion given to charity by Americans in 2021, according to Giving USA, 9.5% of that giving came from bequests – that’s $46 billion. Giving USA’s data visualization tool illustrates the ebbs and flows of bequest giving, which has long been a significant component of philanthropy.

Research reveals fascinating psychological factors behind a person’s decision to leave a bequest, which helps to understand the motivation for leaving a gift to a charitable organization in a will or trust. Not surprisingly, altruism has long been one of those factors. Bequests to charity are not a new idea. Examples of high-profile estate gifts date back centuries. Some of your clients may be familiar with the bequests of Benjamin Franklin, who established testamentary charitable trusts dedicated to supporting Boston and Philadelphia tradesmen, and George Washington, who left bequests in his will to colleges and trade schools.

Our team welcomes the opportunity to work with your clients to establish charitable funds with their bequests through a will or trust, or through a beneficiary designation on a qualified retirement plan or life insurance policy, including providing you with bequest language to ensure alignment with your clients’ intentions. National Make a Will Month is also a good time to remind your clients that distributions from qualified retirement plans can be extremely tax efficient. Funds flowing directly to a client’s fund at the Community Foundation from a retirement plan after the client’s death will not be subject to income tax or estate tax.

We look forward to working with you to establish your clients’ philanthropic legacies.

To get started, contact our Philanthropic Services Department, at 301-695-7660 or email We’re always available to answer your questions about philanthropy or to schedule a personal consultation with you and your clients – all at no cost.

The team at The Community Foundation of Frederick County is honored to serve as a resource and sounding board as you build your charitable plans and pursue your philanthropic objectives for making a difference in the community. This article is provided for informational purposes only, it is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice.