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Bequeath Donations in your Will

Wealthy people should leave enough for their children to do anything, but not enough for them to do nothing.” Warren Buffett (Source)

A will must be handwritten or alternatively notarized.

Cash preferable to assets. You can bequeath real estate or any other asset to a charity or leave it as a legacy. However, this represents a greater organizational effort for the aid organization, since the aid organization itself would have to take care of the sale of the assets, and can cause problems if the aid organization is located in another city or even another country and has limited manpower. If, at the time of your death, your assets primarily consist of real estate, securities or property, you can still transfer an equivalent amount of money to the relief organization. It then becomes the task of the executor to sell the assets necessary to implement the legacy to the aid organization.

Legacy better than inheritance. An heir must take over all responsibilities and obligations of the deceased. It can prove very difficult for an aid organization to assess what duties it must assume upon acceptance of the inheritance. On the other hand, in the case of a legacy, the beneficiary is not obliged to take up the responsibilities of the deceased. So, when it comes to a will, donation by legacy is recommended.

Tax Exemption: The same tax exemption laws apply for donations included in a will as for donations during a person’s lifetime. If the recipient is recognized as a charitable organization in the country of residence of the testator, no inheritance tax is payable. If you wish, you can set conditions for the donation or the legacy in the will. It’s worth bearing in mind though that aid organizations can usually do more with unbound donations.

Sample formulation for a donation in a will to aid organizations based in the country of the testator: “The Against Malaria Foundation in Germany, is to receive as a legacy 30,000 EUR.”

In most cases, if the relief organization is not registered as a charitable foundation in the country of the testator, the aid organization will be obliged to pay inheritance tax on the donation. An alternative which we recommend to avoid this would be to leave the legacy to the Foundation for Effective Altruism where all donations and legacies are tax-exempt and 100% of your donation will be forwarded to your chosen aid organization without administrative costs. [… Here is a list of effective aid organizations to which legacies and donations can be forwarded.]

Sample formulation for a donation in a will to foreign aid organizations without a seat in Germany: “The Foundation for Effective Altruism in Germany, is to receive as legacy 30,000 EUR to be used for projects of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI).”

Donors from Switzerland can issue their tax-exempt legacy to the Foundation for Effective Altruism in Switzerland.

Appointment of an executor: The German forum for succession law recommends to appoint an executor in the will who will be responsible to ensure a speedy and smooth settlement in the interests of the deceased and control the disbursement of the legacy. This can be any person you trust or even your accountant or lawyer.

Sample formulation of an additional clause for the appointment of an executor: “I appoint Peter Hofmann as executor of this will.” It is highly recommended to deposit your will. This ensures that the most up-to-date version of your will is kept on file and avoids the danger that your will may not be found or possibly even modified prior to execution. At any time, you make changes to the handwritten will at the district court. For a one-time flat fee of only 75 EUR, anyone can deposit a handwritten will at the district court. Simply go with your personal ID card, your birth certificate and your handwritten testament to a district court in your area (list of all local courts in Germany or district court search by postal code).

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