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planned giving & trust se r vices What’s in a Name? SO, YOU ARE IN THE PROCESS of planning your will. You have decided which lawyer will draft the document. You have figured out who your executor will be and have obtained his or her agreement. You have talked to your family about who will be getting Grandma’s china. You have made an appointment to sign the document. You’re done, right? There is nothing else to do. There is nothing that can go wrong. Not necessarily. If you haven’t confirmed the names of your beneficiaries, it could mean lengthy delays and additional expenses when it is time for your estate to be administered. It could mean that carrying out your final wishes will drag on for months, even years, and diminish the size of your gifts. Several years ago, a well-meaning donor left sizeable bequests to several charities. A law firm was tasked with the administration of the estate. After a year with no contact from the firm, one charity sent a follow-up letter. They were expecting to hear that everything was well in hand and that as soon as the government sent the tax clearance they would be receiving their gift. Instead, the firm advised that there was a legal issue that needed to be resolved. For four years the firm gave the same answer whenever an update was requested. Finally, the charities received a letter advising that the firm had resolved the issue. Along with the resolution, however, the firm also wanted the charities to approve a hefty bill for its services in settling the issue. The issue that had clogged up the process for so long seemed trivial but was actually quite troublesome —one of the charities had been named improperly. First, the firm had to get two or three other firms to provide opinions on which charity was the most likely to have been the one that the donor intended. Eventually, the issue had to be settled in court with an order to allow the firm to issue the bequests. All of this could have been avoided had the donor or their lawyer ensured that the charity had been properly named, or identified. Many charities have very similar names and can easily be confused. It is very important, then, to provide their proper, legal names. In another case, the charities involved had to provide records to prove that they had a previous donor and/ or volunteer relationship with the deceased. This was difficult, as many charities do not keep records older than seven years, and the donor had been quite advanced in age when he passed away and had not volunteered or made regular donations for years. It is, therefore, best to contact the charities you would like to include in your will to confirm their legal names. To remove all doubt, it is also a good idea to include their current addresses and charitable registration numbers. Many charities provide this information on their websites and are also willing to provide it by phone or by mail in order to make it as easy as possible for potential donors. Such a simple thing will ensure that your gifts go swiftly and specifically where you intend them to. n Sharmilla Reid is the director of donor relations at ADRA Canada. M M a rch 20 15 11