Make a Will Week: Charitable Bequests

Charitable giving is a well-established Canadian tradition, one that contributes to the well-being of our country, our communities, and our neighbours. However, according to a recent editorial in Maclean’s by Governor General David Johnston, overall charitable contributions by Canadians are going down, while older Canadians are becoming responsible for a bigger and bigger proportion of all Canadian charitable gifts.

This isn’t because younger Canadians don’t want to give back. In fact, more millennials feel they should increase their support for charities than any other age group in Canada. However, millennials also give less than other age groups – partly because they have less money than other age groups, and partly because they struggle to find the most effective way to make a difference with their gifts.

One way to support charities that often goes overlooked is through planning your estate. At its best, estate planning allows you to plan the kind of legacy you want to leave behind – both for your family and for your community.


Since it’s Make a Will week, now is a great time to talk about charitable bequests. Charitable bequests are gifts to a charity (or several charities) that are set out in your will and paid from your estate after you pass away. You can specify a particular amount that you want to give, or – if you’re concerned that the value of your estate may change as you get older – you can give a certain fraction of your estate to charity.

Many people worry about providing adequately for their families when making a will. That’s a reasonable concern – the Wills, Estates and Succession Act in BC requires a will-maker to “make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of the will-maker’s spouse or children” in their will.

However, there are lots of ways to make a will that will allow you to ensure that your family is provided for while still giving you the opportunity to leave a legacy in your community. If making a charitable bequest in your will is a priority for you, make sure to let your lawyer know when they are helping you make your will.


Depending on how your estate is structured, there can be many other ways to give. For instance, you can choose to name a charity as a beneficiary on a new or existing life insurance policy, which can allow you to leave a significant legacy by making small premium payments over time.

For very large gifts, some charities can help you set up charitable remainder trusts, which will continue to generate income for the charity well into the future. Some charities can also accept gifts of valuable property, like real estate, and use them in carrying out their charitable missions.

If charitable giving is a priority for you in planning your estate, our lawyers can help walk you through options that will work best for you. To set an appointment to make or update your will, contact us!