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Memorial Funds and Charity

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Respecting and remembering someone after they’ve died is often a priority for family and friends. In fact, some families choose to continue to honor a deceased individual by setting up a memorial fund in the Deceased’s name. This not only honors the Deceased’s unique contribution to the world but helps others as well.

These funds can take many forms. Sometimes they are set up to provide scholarships, other money for education, or to benefit an organization or charity. In fact, there are several different types of memorial funds that can be set up to carry out the philanthropic wishes of the Deceased or the survivors.

The best way to set up a memorial fund is to contact your local bank or your financial advisor. There are many options from which to choose and many types of beneficiaries.

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Types of Memorial Funds

The following information was published in “The Right Philanthropic Vehicle” by Laura Peebles and published in The Journal of Accountancy:

  • Community Foundations: This type of fund receives contributions from the community and then gives grants to various charities. There are several different community foundations. They are generally exempt from excise taxes, have little or no administrative costs and the donor can deduct the full market value of any property that has appreciated.
  • Private Foundations: These are often set up by families or groups of people who are worried about retaining the maximum amount of control possible over how the money is distributed. The tax laws are different for private foundations, in some cases less desirable, and generally have administration such as a board of executives which can be costly. These are common, however, for very wealthy families.
  • Proprietary Funds: These are basically mutual funds that act like charities. The tax law treats them as charities and can be a good choice for a last minute fund. They are not often a good choice for property or similar assets.
  • Supporting Organization Funds (SOF): SOFs fund specific charities such as an alumni organization or any other charity. These types of funds require involvement of the donor or the group of people who set it up. They are exempt from the same somewhat limiting tax rules as those of private foundations, have “the same tax deduction limits as charities” and can own unlimited amounts of stock.

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Setting Up a Charity

First, if you have the Deceased’s donation preferences or know of an organization they believed in, that will help you determine the specific organization that will benefit from the memorial fund. If not, consider the Deceased’s wishes and feelings about various charities and causes. (Please note: Consulting a financial advisor is often a good idea to ensure that you are making the correct choices to honor the Deceased as you’d like.)

Many families choose to set up a memorial fund to benefit an organization or cause related to the disease or ailment that caused the Deceased’s death. Examples are funds that collect money for breast cancer research, heart disease prevention, diabetes education and so on. On the other hand, some survivors choose to set up funds that benefit something the Deceased was passionate about such as a particular park, a museum, a soup kitchen or food shelf, an arts center, a particular college or university and others.

If you plan to work with a specific organization, contact them to inquire about how memorial funds usually work with their procedures. Some organizations set up specific types of funds and direct them in a certain way. Discussing this with them will both help you discover if it’s the right group to work with and if a fund placed with them would carry out the memory you want to create of the Deceased.

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Memorial Funds for Survivors

If you’d like to create a memorial fund in the Deceased’s name to benefit their descendants or to provide funds for education, you can speak to a local bank. They can fully accommodate such requests and can give you information about what type of fund to create and how it will work. These types of funds usually take donations from the community in lieu of sending flowers to the funeral and often are created when someone dies tragically or without life insurance. The fund then contains money for the Deceased’s beneficiaries.

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