7 misconceptions about leaving a charity in your will

It’s simpler than you might think to make a lasting impact on the issues you care about. Over the years, I’ve heard similar concerns from people when it comes to leaving a gift to charity in their will. Let’s break them down!


#1: “My estate won’t be big enough to make an impact.”

You don’t need to be wealthy to make an impact with your legacy. Whatever the size of your estate, you can still contribute to the causes you care about. In fact, chances are your estate is larger than you think it is. At Toronto Foundation, you can set up a legacy fund in your name with a bequest of $10,000, which will contribute to the causes you care about long after your lifetime. According to Will Power’s estimate, if only 3.5% more ordinary Canadians included a gift in their will in the next decade, $40 billion would be directed to charitable causes. You can be a part of that 3.5%.


#2: “I need to provide for my family, so I can't leave a charity in my will before understanding what the final value of my assets will be.”

While some folks choose to leave a specific dollar amount to establish their philanthropic legacy, you don’t actually need to know the value of your future estate to start planning now. You can also choose to leave a percentage of your estate, or the residual after all of your commitments to others are settled.


#3: “Estate planning is for people who’ve already lived a long life.”

I noticed that younger folks are often hesitant to have a conversation about bequests. But your charitable legacy is really about ensuring that your values live on beyond your lifetime by supporting the issues that mean the most to you.

In fact, young parents are often in the perfect life stage to think about legacy gifts. Having a conversation about leaving a charitable bequest is a great way to teach and pass on your philanthropic values to your children – and many organizations will engage your family in fulfilling your legacy after you’re gone.


#4: “Creating a will is complicated.”

It doesn’t have to be. There are several easy options to choose from. Depending on the complexity of your estate, there are now a number of easy and inexpensive online options for creating a legal will. You can also visit our Will Power page to connect with an estate lawyer, who can do the heavy lifting for you.


#5: “I must have a will in order to leave a legacy gift.”

While we strongly encourage you to have an up-to-date will created with a trusted lawyer or estate planner, or even a reputable online provider like Willful, you don’t actually need a will to leave a legacy gift to charity. You can also name a charity as the beneficiary of an insurance policy or your registered funds, such as a RRSP or RIFF.


#6: “I can’t take care of my loved ones and leave a legacy gift to charity.”

According to the Will Power campaign, the main barrier to people leaving a bequest to charity in their wills is the worry that they’ll be “taking away” from supporting their loved ones. Working through the numbers will likely show that you can leave a small percentage of your estate to charity and still have enough to support your loved ones.

Some helpful and relevant tools:


#7: “I need to have all the answers now.”

While you're on your philanthropic journey, a community foundation can help address your questions. They have the expertise, community connections, and a deep understanding of local needs and charitable organizations representing every cause. Toronto Foundation can work with you to identify how to have the greatest impact with your legacy.


Feeling inspired? Learn more how easy it is to get started or email me at nhives@torontofoundation.ca to learn more!