Think You Know Who Your Charitable Beneficiaries Are?

I was recently asked by clients to review a trust that had been drafted by another attorney several years ago. The trust, like many others we see and draft here at Wright Beamer, left a gift to a Michigan-based nonprofit organization that had been especially significant in the lives of these individuals. While going through the documents, I checked the corporate status of the nonprofit and learned that there are four organizations in Michigan with names confusingly similar to the one named. And the specific organization designated in the trust was the exact name for a totally different organization than the one intended. Fortunately, the error was caught, and we were able to fix it.

While this was clearly an inexcusable oversight on the part of the drafting attorney, there are a couple of things that you, as clients, can do to help prevent this from happening to you.

First, when discussing your estate planning goals and desires, try to be as accurate as possible in the information you provide (names, addresses, phone numbers, and so on). For organizations, check your donation receipt or other online resources carefully for the full and correct legal name and its address. Organizations often use nicknames, shortened versions of their legal names or initials to refer to themselves, not all of which are filed with the state regulatory authorities or the IRS.

Second, be sure to check your final documents to make sure they’re accurate, including the names of beneficiaries. Review the distribution provisions and confirm that the right gifts are earmarked for the right people and organizations.

Does your estate plan provide for a distribution to an organization? We’d be happy to help you make sure it’s the right one. Please call us at (248) 477-6300.