The generosity of Australians has helped many charities over the years. The 2012 World Giving Index shows that 87% of Australians will have supported charity in their lifetime – making us one of the most generous and charitable nations in the world. Giving to charity is something that many of your clients feel very passionate about. When asked, 29% of Australians indicated that they would consider including a bequest to a favourite cause or charity in their Will. Reality shows that only 7.5% actually do.
Why do we need your support?
As a provider of professional legal services, many Australians will turn to you to draft or update their Wills. The single most significant factor that has helped to increase the incidence of charitable gifts in wills in the UK and the USA is the mention of charities by a solicitor at the time a will is being prepared. A study in the UK has shown the difference that solicitors are already making there by asking the question about philanthropic gifts in wills: the number of charitable gifts included in wills increased from 4.9% when the option was not mentioned by the solicitor to 10.8% when the question was asked: an increase of 120%.
This is where we believe you have a critically important role to play. Your actions can help fulfil your clients’ philanthropic wishes. And, by encouraging them to share their wishes with their family, you can help prevent any nasty surprises from cropping-up further down the track.
One of the reasons for so few Australians including charitable gifts in their wills seems to be that the topic is traditionally rarely mentioned by solicitors. However, recent research shows that clients are increasingly raising their interest in including charitable bequests with their solicitor. In the light of this growing interest solicitors are also are becoming more proactive in their recommendation and provision of gifts in wills information.
Of course it is only right that your clients should think about their immediate families’ needs first when giving you instructions for their wills. We are all aware of Family Provision legislation and the consequences of this being ignored.
Including charities in your clients’ wills – what you need to know
Before your client commits leaving some or all of their wealth to a particular organisation or charitable cause, it is important to find out certain information about them.
• What is their correct legal name?
• What is their ABN number?
• Do they have deductible gift recipient (DGR) status?
As a legal professional you will be only too well aware of the need to correctly identify the rightful beneficiaries to be included in your clients’ wills. Wrongly identified charities cause Executors legal headaches and long delays when the time comes to distribute the estate. Organisations do change their names from time to time and join together to form new legal entities. Some organisations have similar names and aspirations. Many use more accessible, marketable or shortened trading names. This is why it is so important to verify a charity’s correct legal name before including it in a will. Ideally the charity’s ABN number is also included in the clause.
If your clients are unsure of the full correct name or details of the charities they would like to support, our list of member charities may help you to determine the right organisation. Clients may know the charity only by their trade name or an abbreviation rather than their correct legal name. You can find a registered charity on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commision (ACNC) website.
Include a Charity has over 100 participating charity members. To help you find the correct legal identities, we have provided our members’ details and suggested wording for a bequest gift. You can search for charities either directly through typing in their names, by looking within different categories or search for them based on whether they work nationally or in a particular state or, territory. Please click here to see our member information.
Including the right gift
Understanding your client and their needs is one of the most crucial parts of the estate planning process. We know from the ATO, Volunteering Australia and various market research surveys that most Australians will support charitable causes during their lifetime. This is important to them and we believe that it should be taken into account when constructing charity supporters’ wills.
The following sample questions are easy ways for you to explore your clients’ thoughts about charitable giving and ensure that their philanthropic wishes are reflected in the wills you write:
• Many people make provisions in their wills to help the charities and good causes they have supported or admired over the years, after they have provided for their families and loved ones. Is this something you would like to consider?
• Are you interested in any particular good cause or causes or have a particular interest that you would like to support through including gifts in your will?
• Many charitable organisations benefit from the generosity of people who leave a legacy to them in their Will. Is this something you would like to do?
• Are there any organisations or charities you care about, currently support or that are important to you and your family? If so, would like to support any of those charities or organisations through including gifts in your will?
How can you support the Include a Charity campaign?
The aim of Include a Charity is to inspire Australians to include charities in their wills. We want to make more people aware of the positive philanthropic impact that charitable bequests have and what a huge difference their gifts can make in the future. We also want to make people understand how simple it is to include their favourite charities in their estate planning.
We ask that you and your fellow will-writing colleagues consider doing three simple things:
1. Explore your clients’ charitable wishes by asking some simple questions when talking about writing their wills and Powers of Attorney.
2. If your client is including one or more charities in their will, ask them if they would be happy to advise the charities of their gift. The charities would like to thank them in person for their generosity and commitment.
3. Display Include a Charity leaflets in your reception area or office. These leaflets provide practical information to people who are making or updating their will. Contact us via email or call 1300 889 670 and we’ll send you some of our leaflets along with a stand to display them, free of charge.
The national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has a search tool you can use to find the correct name and ABN number of any registered charity: find a registered charity.