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Personal Finance

How to Best Leave an IRA to Charity

Charitable giving can become messy when it involves multiple beneficiaries and retirement and nonretirement assets.

Question: I want to leave my estate, which includes a substantial IRA and other assets, to a collection of individual and charitable beneficiaries in varying percentages. Some of the charities are big and some are small churches or 501(c)(3)s. It would make sense to fund the charities' shares with the retirement benefit asset (the IRA) because the charities will pay no income tax on the IRA proceeds, whereas if the individuals' shares are funded with IRA assets their net inheritance will be reduced by income taxes. Is there a way to accomplish this?

Answer: I agree with the wisdom of the simply-stated plan--fund the charities' shares with the IRA, and the human beneficiaries' shares with non-IRA assets, to the extent possible. It's not as easy to do this as it is to say it, though. Here's the obstacle course to navigate.