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Gift Planning Corner

Retirement Plan Gifts

Posted by Fran Moskovitz, Gift Planning Officer

Estate planning is not always as complicated as it seems. In fact, some people may overlook one of the simplest and most “tax-wise” ways to make a contribution to The Nature Conservancy: a bequest through a retirement plan. Designating the Conservancy as a beneficiary of your retirement plan, while leaving other assets to your heirs, can help you give more to them.


If you leave your IRA, 401(k) or other qualified plan to a family member, he or she will likely pay income tax on your gift. Other assets, such as stocks, are taxed differently than retirement plan assets. That means your heirs may benefit more from a different asset.

When you leave retirement assets to the Conservancy, the designated amount comes to us. Because we are a nonprofit organization, we won’t pay income taxes on the gift and it isn’t subject to estate tax.

This means leaving your retirement assets to the Conservancy may be one of the lowest cost ways to support our mission. Designating the Conservancy as a beneficiary of your retirement plan is simple: just obtain a Designation of Beneficiary Form from your retirement plan administrator and fill it out.

You can name the Conservancy as the primary beneficiary to receive a percentage or the entire amount of your plan. If the Conservancy is a partial beneficiary of your plan, the balance will be directed to other named beneficiaries. You can also name the Conservancy as a contingent beneficiary of all, or a portion, of your plan. For example, you could name family members or friends as the primary beneficiaries, and then name the Conservancy to receive assets if the named individuals do not survive you.

In addition to retirement plans, you can leave assets from bank accounts, brokerage accounts and life insurance policies to the Conservancy. The process is similar and just requires that you submit an updated Designation of Beneficiary Form.

Most people I talk with are surprised to learn that this form—not your will or trust—directs where these assets will go after your lifetime. So it’s important to update this form regularly to reflect your current wishes. An extra step may be required to designate your 401(k); please contact our team for more details.

If you would like to discuss the benefits of leaving your retirement assets to the Conservancy—as I have done—please feel free to call our team toll-free at (877) 812-3698 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST.

The Nature Conservancy cannot render tax or legal advice. Please consult your professional financial advisor before making a charitable gift.


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