How to Bequeath Something to Your Church

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

A bequest is a specific provision in your will or living trust, leaving money or other assets to a person or institution. If you would like to bequeath money or other assets to your church, but you are uncertain how to do this, you are not alone. A report prepared for St. Columba's Chapel in Rhode Island estimates that less than 2 percent of all Christians leave a bequest in their wills or make some other type of planned gift to their churches. When questioned, Christians often state that their churches have not asked them for bequests, and they don't know how to prepare them on their own.

Bequests History

Christianity was illegal in the early Roman Empire, so Christians could not make bequests to their churches. Emperor Constantine I legalized bequests to churches in 321 A.D. From the late Roman Empire to the modern era, individual Christians have left bequests in their wills and other estate planning documents, helping to provide for the support of clergy, church buildings, religious charities for the poor, and church-run schools, orphanages, hospitals, universities and other institutions. Many of the organizations funded by these earlier gifts are still in existence today.

Church Information

These days, American Christians give less than 1 percent of their annual earnings to religious and charitable causes, according to an analysis of Christian donation patterns, "Passing the Plate." Some churches have responded to this trend by creating simple instructions for members on how to bequeath money and assets to churches, placing the information within church webpages, reports, newsletters and articles.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Ask Your Church

You can start creating your church bequest by asking your church for its specific bequest information. Your church's bequest materials might contain a few sentences that you can put in your will or living trust, stating your intention to give money or assets to your church and identifying the projects within your church that you wish the money or assets to be spent on. If you are uncertain about which church project might benefit most from your gift, consult your priest or minister.

Additional Assistance

If the process of preparing a will or living trust and then adding a church bequest feels complicated, you may be able to call upon others in the same situation for support. The Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City has a "Legacy Society," which provides connections and advice for church members wanting to leave bequests to that church. If your church has no formal bequest information packets, you can ask your minister or priest to set up a group in which potential donors can work together to create bequest language appropriate for your church's specific needs. An estate-planning expert or a third-party legal document service might also be able to assist you with making bequests to your church.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Make a Will for Stepchildren



Related articles

How to Go About Making a Will

More than half of Americans don't have a will, according to the American Bar Association. Whether due to fear of death or lawyers' bills, many people procrastinate drafting a last testament. Yet a simple will is the task of a few hours, and proper execution is a matter of minutes -- if you understand the few procedural requirements. Those with large holdings or complicated estates may do better with tax and legal advice.

How to Leave an Entire Estate to Various Charities

Without an estate plan or will, your state’s laws determine how your assets will be distributed upon your death, typically giving your property to close relatives. However, with the right planning, you can donate your entire estate to charity using tools like a will or trust. A will gives gifts outright, and trusts manage your assets while giving periodic payments to the charities of your choice.

Pros & Cons of Preparing a Will Online

The proliferation of online will preparation services has helped more people create wills at substantially lower costs than they would otherwise pay. In many cases, online wills provide excellent protection at a substantial value. However, highly complex wills may require an attorney, and no document preparation service can completely replace lawyers. People who prepare wills online should make sure they fully understand the questions asked by the will preparation service, and should check the final product to ensure it says what is intended.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

How to Start a Nonprofit Foundation

If you want to improve your community or meet a social need that no other local organization is pursuing, you might ...

How to Write Bequests in a Will

A bequest is a provision of your will that directs a particular sum of money or item of property to be given to a ...

How to Start a 501C3 Nonprofit Ministry

Charity work is often part of a church's activities -- and some churches may choose to expand their charitable work by ...

How to List a Charity as Your Beneficiary

A "beneficiary" is a person or entity, such as a nonprofit organization, that receives money or other property from an ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED