Many Cana­di­ans choose to in­clude gifts to char­i­ties in their wills. Here are some tips on in­cor­po­rat­ing char­i­ta­ble giv­ing as part of the es­tate plan­ning process from Dou­glas Gray, au­thor of The Cana­dian Guide to Will and Es­tate Plan­ning (­tateplan­

Phi­lan­thropy is a no­ble cause, but fam­ily comes first. En­sure spouse and other de­pen­dents are ad­e­quately pro­vided for in ac­cor­dance with your wishes.

En­sure the es­tate has suf­fi­cient liq­uid as­sets to cover do­na­tions with­out forc­ing ex­ecu­tors to liq­ui­date oth­ers to raise cash.

Make sure that you iden­tify the de­sired char­ity by its pre­cise full le­gal name and in­clude its ad­dress and phone num­ber; lengthy and ex­pen­sive court bat­tles have been fought by com­pet­ing char­i­ties in cases where there was con­fu­sion.

En­sure that the tax con­se­quences of do­na­tions are duly con­sid­ered. For ex­am­ple, if you own a Group of Seven paint­ing or other as­set deemed by the Canada Rev­enue Agency to have “out­stand­ing sig­nif­i­cance and na­tional im­por­tance to Canada,” do­nat­ing it to a des­ig­nated in­sti­tu­tion can re­sult in favourable tax treat­ment, in­clud­ing an ex­emp­tion for cap­i­tal gains.

If you in­tend to make a sub­stan­tial do­na­tion to one or more char­i­ties, con­sider mak­ing gifts dur­ing your life­time un­der a planned giv­ing pro­gram, which might pro­duce bet­ter over­all tax re­sults than if do­na­tions only take ef­fect af­ter death.

Leg­is­la­tion varies from prov­ince to prov­ince on is­sues re­lat­ing to wills and do­na­tions to pri­vate foun­da­tions. In Bri­tish Columbia, for ex­am­ple, it is pos­si­ble to chal­lenge a will through the courts dur­ing the pro­bate process in cases where the claimant feels the dis­tri­bu­tion of as­sets was not fair or eq­ui­table. One of the best ways to avoid this is to en­sure heirs and de­pen­dents are in­formed and on the same page prior to the will tak­ing ef­fect, as­sum­ing of course that op­tion is fea­si­ble or ap­pro­pri­ate; fam­ily dy­nam­ics can vary con­sid­er­ably. Prior to any dis­cus­sion with your fam­ily, make sure you have a con­sul­ta­tion with an ex­pe­ri­enced es­tate lawyer.

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