The Simple Way For Advisors To Start In Charitable Planning

The Simple Way For Advisors To Start In Charitable Planning

The seemingly amorphous amount of content dealing with charitable planning can be segmented into four specific categories, our cornerstones of success: Opportunity Recognition, Client Conversations, Collaboration, and Technical Knowledge. Understanding all these areas is important, but ultimately our experience has taught us that if you master Opportunity Recognition first, you can become successful immediately.

What is Opportunity Recognition? Quite simply, it’s the ability to find gifts in each client’s personal situation – gifts that they may or may not know about and don’t realize they can make.

We have identified 17 different gift categories and over 40 different places to look. Using opportunity recognition will allow you to start conversations with them about a circumstance, an asset, a tax situation, or some other factor – in a way that no other advisor can. When you do this, it sets you apart from other advisors, bringing a level of credibility and authority to your practice that perhaps wasn’t there before. It is the easiest way to begin your successful path to becoming a charitable planner.

Let’s start with Step One: Wills & Trust. As advisors, it’s important to gather and review clients’ existing situations including their estate planning documents, tax returns, financial statements, insurance coverage, etc. These items may contain clues as to the charitable motivations of your clients. When you first review your client’s will and/or living trust, one thing to look for is a charitable bequest (i.e. specific language that names a charity or charities and grants them either a specific dollar amount, a specific percentage of the estate, a specific asset, or some other combination of these).

Bequests represent as much as 65% of all planned gifts – extremely common and very important. They also tell us something about your client, that he or she is already charitable-inclined. A bequest in a client’s will it is an opportunity for further discussion.

Make inquiries such as:

  • Tell me about this bequest to XYZ foundation.
  • Why are they important to you?
  • How did you pick them?
  • Does the charity know they are going to receive this gift?
  • Do you want them to know?

This type of dialogue will scratch the surface of the intentions behind the gift and dig deeper – maybe even igniting ideas on how to make the same gift even better. Many bequests are there because the client doesn’t know they could make the same gift today, or an even a bigger one. If they do, they will not only remove the asset from their estate, but also save current income tax, capital gains tax (if any), and possibly still receive income from that asset as long as they’re alive.

What we can do as planners with something as simple as a will bequest is truly amazing – but we need to pay attention, read documents, ask questions and pursue the conversation.

We are providing our entire module on Opportunity Recognition as a free gift to the readers of this series. You can download it here. Give me a call at (704) 698-4055 or email me at for more information.