Best Way To Donate Money
Effective estate planning involves more than deciding how you want your assets to be distributed after you pass away. You must also determine how much you want to give to others while you are still alive. If you plan cautiously, so you do not outlive your assets, giving to others allows you to reduce the amount of your taxable estate and provide advance assistance to your beneficiaries.
There are two easy ways you can give gifts without being subject to the gift tax. One is to pay the medical or educational expense for another person. You may spend an unlimited amount of money toward such bills if you give the money directly to the institutions where the expenses were incurred. You may also give up to $13,000 each year in cash or assets to as many people as you would like. If you give more to an individual in a calendar year, you must file a gift-tax return. The excess amount will be applied toward the lifetime gift-tax exclusion, which is $5.12 million in 2012. If at any point your gifts exceed that amount, you must pay taxes on the excess. The top tax rate on gifts is declining having fallen to 35% in 2010.
Gifts which you give within three years of death which exceed the lifetime gift-tax exclusion will have an impact on the amount of money you may leave your heirs free of federal estate taxes. For example, if you were to give away $100,000 more than your lifetime exclusion within three years of your death, your estate-tax exemption would be reduced by the same amount – $100,000.
Another consideration: if you decide you want to invest in a 529 college savings plan for a beneficiary, those contributions will be treated as gifts. You may contribute as much as $65,000 in one year – $130,000 with your spouse – but you should know that amount will be treated as if it had made in $13,000 installments over five years. This means you cannot give any more tax-free money to that beneficiary during that five-year period. If you were to pass away before that five-year period ended, part of the money you gave would be included in your taxable estate – the $65,000, minus $13,000, for each year you were alive.
Another way to reduce your estate is through judicious use of charitable donations. When you invest in community foundations and charitable gift funds, your donations can reach beyond your death. Charitable gift funds allow you to make a tax-deductible donation and grow your investment tax-free, then direct a contribution in your name to any nonprofits you choose, whenever you like. Community foundations are regional charities which accept donations of as little as $5,000 in stock, cash or property. Foundations invest their money, pool their gains and allocate grants, usually to local non-profit agencies which you have designated or to a cause you support.
There are also a couple of charitable trusts you might want to consider. In a charitable lead trust, a charity receives the income and your heirs get the principal, while with a charitable remainder trust, your heirs get the income and the charity gets the principal.
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