Your Donors Need a Good Estate Plan

An Opportunity to Educate Your Constituency

When it comes to estate planning, most people consider a solid estate plan the business of experts, rather than financial planning on their own behalf. The fact is over 60 percent of Americans do not have a valid will. Indeed, those who die intestate (without a will), leave their loved ones with a complicated mess. Here’s an amusing article of “famous people” who died without a will.

Without an estate trust or will, a person cannot directly transfer valuable assets to family heirs and designated charities at the end of their life. Formation of a will is assurance that loved ones are not subject to lengthy probate proceedings, and the decedent’s philanthropic intent is a legacy memorialized in perpetuity.

LegacyPlanner™ is the online will solution for planned giving specialists and their clients offered by

Why Donor Education is Key

Deductible tax incentive gives reason for legacy gift transfer to a charity.

It is undeniable a good estate plan helps one prepare for the future and manage the present. Estate planning can begin with simply writing a will, but it can also involve trusts, changing beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement accounts, selecting guardians for minor children, providing lifetime income for the testator and others, as well as passing on business interests, minimizing taxes and other estate settlement costs, and leaving a legacy donation to designated charitable beneficiaries.

Laws of intestacy guiding estate law rules of distribution from a trust or will in the circumstance where a decedent has not made the decision to establish a planned giving strategy in advance, do not permit arbitrary designation of assets and property for a charitable recipient. We agree a little informed preparation goes a long way. Our suite of planned giving tools supports the marketing of bequests and other capacity building activities working synergistically with LegacyPlanner™.

LegacyPlanner™ online will formation, is often the difference between deciding how assets will benefit an estate owner while still alive, loved ones, a favorite charity, or the alternative of probate court. We help planned giving specialists and their donor clients to get started on planning a charitable legacy according to their own plan

What is a Good Estate Plan?

Simply stated, a good estate plan is one that guarantees all the testator’s wishes will be faithfully executed, provides them with peace of mind, and ensures that their beneficiaries enjoy the legacy they worked so hard to build. A good estate plan depends entirely on the individual’s needs and desires.

A good estate plan can:

  • Take care of a spouse or partner.
  • Provide support for the special needs of children or grandchildren, especially if they face costly illnesses or disabilities.
  • Provide continuing support to their favorite nonprofit organization(s).
  • Simplify estate administration, time, and costs.
  • Protect the testator’s interests with a comprehensive plan for retirement income, medical needs or wishes, and distribution of assets.
  • Provide for the survival and continued success of a family business.

Minimizing Tax Liabilities

Virtually everything a person owns or controls can be subject to estate, inheritance, gift, and generation skipping transfer taxes, which can substantially reduce what they pass on to their heirs. A 2017 change to the tax law has moved the dial on federal estate and gift taxes. Through 2025, the exclusion amount has been temporarily doubled. For 2023, the exclusion amount is $12,290,000. Absent further Congressional action, the exclusion will revert in 2026 to somewhere between $6 million and $7 million.  For estates valued over  the exclusion amount, creative estate planning can avoid or minimize tax liabilities. Charitable gift planning can be a powerful tool in this context.

Keep in mind that many states still have estate or inheritance taxes with much lower exclusion amounts.

Things Donors May Want to Consider

  • Sometimes they can benefit from giving up control of an asset during their lifetime.
  • New tax laws may impact their current plan. It’s always a good idea to review an estate plan every few years with an advisor.
  • Creative planned gifts can be a simple and fulfilling way to receive a tax benefit while providing for a meaningful legacy.

The Potential of ‘Do-it-Yourself’ Planning

Estate planning isn’t just for rich people or older people. Everyone should do it.

  • Planned giving specialists acknowledge, estate planning is usually not a do-it-yourself project. Many estate owners who are also charitable donors, prefer to get started by themselves, waiting until they’re finished drafting a will before having it reviewed by a lawyer. This underscores the importance of self-volition in the estate planning process.

    Regardless of perils along the way, clients often elect to prepare estate, trust, and will documents prior to consultation with a professional. A full-service suite of online will creation tools, LegacyPlanner™ is also an interim solution for someone with complex estate requirements.

    LegacyPlanner™ provides both planned giving specialists and individual clients the benefit of will creation in a user-friendly web-based context without the confusion of elaborate legal language. Our product is an attorney-vetted, will maker that’s free for the donor and guides them through a simple yet them through the complete process of will documentation.’s expert support features assist clients in with will writing as it is meant to be done.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Each estate legacy is a unique plan created for purposes of gift transfer.

Estate planning can be as simple as writing a will and completing the documents that address income, medical needs, and care for minor relatives — or it can be a more complicated process, involving trusts, business interests, and more. Either way, LegacyPlanner™ assists charitable donors in drafting a legacy to be remembered. It can be used to complete a simple, legal will — or as a tool to get organized before a visit to a professional. LegacyPlanner™ contains all the documents, instructions, and tools to:

  • Take a complete inventory of personal property and assign realistic values to assets. The testator can find tools online to help estimate what their home, car, and other property is worth.
  • Make a list of beneficiaries, making note of any special needs or considerations the testator wants to discuss. Remember, beneficiaries can be organizations and charities, as well as individuals.
  • Keep their spouse in the loop from the get-go. It’s not only a matter of respect and consideration, but coordinating plans often leads to additional savings for the estate. The testator may also choose to discuss their plans with other trusted family members or friends.

The Basic Planning Tools

Although a will is the essential estate planning tool, it is not, as most people believe, carved in stone. A will may reflect one’s written intentions for the disposition of an estate, but there are other legal documents that may override the will:

  • Trusts
  • Named beneficiaries of retirement plans
  • Partnerships or other business agreements
  • State laws

LegacyPlanner™ is a comprehensive suite of online tools and forms for creation of estate planning documents.

Who Can Help?

The need for expert advice is helpful. Consult a planned giving specialist or licensed attorney specializing in estate law if you feel you need more help.

Writing a will is well worth the investment of time whether you do it yourself or with an expert. For dealing with estate and inheritance taxes, probate with assets in more than one state, and/or setting up any kind of a trust, an attorney is a must. Both federal and state estate laws change frequently. Finding an attorney who specializes in estate and probate law is advisable.

How to Find Help

Finding an attorney to prepare an estate plan is a matter of their expertise, as well as the testator’s own comfort level. Much of the estate planning process is up-close and personal, regarding family business or confidential information, and one should feel comfortable discussing this information with a planner. Estate attorneys can be found via an internet search, the Yellow Pages, and by asking friends and colleagues for recommendations. The local Bar Association may also provide names and recommendations.

The cost of a basic estate plan can run between $500 and $3,500 depending on the complexities involved. A basic trust plan may run between $2,500 and $4,500, possibly more, depending on the size of the estate and the complexities involved. A good estate planning attorney will offer a consultation and will then provide an engagement letter with an estimate of the plan’s cost. This is a highly specialized area requiring the help of a competent, experienced individual.

What Are You Waiting For?

Affirmation of estate planning and will priorities, gets the ball rolling.

  • Of course, you’ve known all along how important estate planning is, and what it can do for your nonprofit, right?
  • It’s probably the most important practical thing anyone will ever do for their personal peace of mind and the well-being of their family.
  • It’s also an exceptional opportunity to make a charitable gift transfer with tax-deductible benefits to an organization.

For more information about our planned giving marketing tools and LegacyPlanner™, or to learn how you can help your donors care for loved ones and invest in their legacy, call us.


With the advent of online software application will creation tools, planned giving specialists and individuals seeking independent formation of advance directives, the rules and administrative process behind end-of-life personal financial planning became more transparent. The introduction of’s web-based product has made creation of a written will simple, rather than daunting as before.

LegacyPlanner™ works more effectively than other online will applications because it’s seamlessly integrated as part of our planned giving websites. The application is also a learning environment, that educates the donor about the importance of an estate plan, while also showing them the transformational power of a gift to a charitable organization.

Online Estate Planners: An Interview With Viken Mikaelian

Are you curious about the “sudden” proliferation of online will makers? They have been around for more than 20 years.

Find out what PlannedGiving.Com CEO Viken Mikaelian thinks in a straight-talk Q&A. 

Reach out! We look forward to hearing from you.


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