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10 Ways to Encourage Estate Planning

10 Ways to Encourage Estate Planning

June 15, 2021
Gail Glasser

If your organization accepts estate or planned gifts — and it should! — there’s never a wrong time to cue your donors’ thoughts and actions toward their estate plans. That means the perfect time … is now.

Remind your donors that if they are fortunate to have an estate plan already, they should work with their planner to review the documents to ensure beneficiaries are still correct and intentions remain the same as the current plan designates. Nudge them to remember to include your organization if they have not done so. 

For many of your donors, an estate plan is a well-intentioned item on a to-do list that never seems to get checked off. You can help, while also opening an opportunity for your organization to be a resource. 

Here are 10 things to share with your donors and prospects.

  1. Getting started with your estate plan is the hardest step. Set a date to begin and simply start. We suggest starting a binder of files that have the initial information handy.
  2. Set a deadline for when you would like to complete your initial plan. Whatever time you think it will take, add more. 
  3. Start a list of the people and organizations you love. This may include your spouse, partner, children, extended family, special friends, charities and your place of worship. If you desire to purposefully leave someone out of your plan, put them on a list as well. 
  4. Organize your financial data and store all documents. This may take some hunting for information such as policies, deeds, certificates, account numbers and titles. Gather account numbers and balances for items such as your bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, pension plans, trusts, IRAs, collections, insurance policies and annuities. Make a list of larger tangible assets including your home, vehicles, vacation properties, trailers, boats. Start a third list of all your debts such as credit cards, loans, mortgage, etc. Be sure to determine how you hold title to any property. 
  5. Begin to sort the list of people and organizations in terms of what you would like them to inherit, when and how. These beneficiaries can change over time.
  6. Spend some quality time really thinking about how you want the estate to be handled. What messages do you want to send in terms of legacy, gratitude, love? Is there any concern about privacy, business or family harmony? An honest assessment and careful planning may save some challenges later. 
  7. Engage an experienced estate planning attorney to draft the documents to meet specific legal requirements for your state. He or she will answer your questions and counsel your planning thoughts to ensure your plan uniquely fits your circumstances and desires. Your attorney will help you determine the right tools for your desired outcomes — will, trust, insurance, etc.
  8. Think carefully about who you will ask to be your trusted representative executing your wishes — your trustee and/or executor. 
  9. While creating your will, trust or other plan, make sure your health care directive, financial power of attorney and guardianship (if applicable) documents are created. 
  10. Build and implement the plan. Signatures, possible title or trust changes and notifications will wrap up the planning process.
  11. Bonus: Mark the date on your calendar one year ahead to monitor any changes. 

Helping your constituents consider the most important estate planning issues will set your organization apart. And the naming of your charity in those plans helps ensure your mission can flourish for generations to come. 


Gail Glasser

Gail possesses 30 years of leadership experience in strategic planning, major gifts, capital campaigns, annual campaigns, planned giving, integrated communication and board development. She serves as the director of philanthropic outreach for a national nonprofit. She is also a past president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Central Kentucky, and she was the chief advancement officer for the YMCA of Greater Houston, YMCA of Greater St. Louis (now the Gateway YMCA) and Capital District YMCA. Gail has served as the chair of the North American YMCA Development Organization and was a leader in the Y’s diversity, inclusion and global work. Throughout Gail’s early career, she held student affairs positions at Illinois State University, University of Illinois and the University of South Carolina. Gail earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and her master’s in human service counseling and consultation from Illinois State University. She also holds a law degree from Saint Louis University. Gail’s favorite quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou