Frequently Asked Questions

Below you’ll find answers to questions we get asked the most about the work we do and the importance of your estate plan and charitable giving. They are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations but enable you to better understand your options and opportunities. Representatives from Lutheran Foundation Canada can assist you with specific requests with respect to your personal situation.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinthians 9:7

1. Who is Lutheran Foundation Canada?

Lutheran Foundation Canada is a national ministry of Lutheran Church–Canada serving all members of our synod. We assist Lutheran donors in fulfilling their stewardship goals through charitable giving by providing education, guidance, and support, through the complete process of gift development and fulfillment. Every one of our donors is able to give in a way that best exemplifies their faith and charitable goals.

2. What does the Foundation do?

First, through education, we build awareness within individuals and congregations about the importance of Christ-centered estate planning and stewardship as it relates to the concept of planned giving. Second, through seminars and one-on-one consultations, we help Lutheran donors understand how they can be a blessing to their families and the ministries they are passionate about, by using Godly stewardship principles to create their plans. Third, through support, we work with individual donors to create God-pleasing legacies that provide a permanent and stable source of income for the Lord’s work which further develops and expands the mission of the Church, thus strengthening these ministries for your children, grandchildren and generations to come. Fourth, we work directly with congregations to help them establish and implement planned giving programs, gift acceptance and use policies, and create/manage gift funds.

3. What We Are Not

Sometimes we get confused as just another fundraising organization or an investment company with something to sell. Neither is true. Our purpose is aligned with the mission and vision of Lutheran Church-Canada. We do not sell anything! Lutheran Foundation Canada is focused on connecting Lutheran donors with the ministries of Lutheran Church-Canada. Through our efforts, all LCC organizations can benefit from increased giving. By encouraging planned giving, we can help those that joyously want to share their blessings for the purposes of building God’s kingdom. All donor gifts go directly to the ministries they have chosen to support.

4. Is there a cost to using the Foundation?

Not at all. Our services to individuals and congregations are provided free of charge. We are here to help you in developing your charitable gift and assist you with other important decisions regarding your overall estate plan. We are not replacing legal, tax, or financial advice from other professionals who may charge for their services. We gladly work with these professionals to ensure your plans are what you want them to be. In fact, working with the Foundation may actually reduce the costs of preparing your plans.

5. Do I need a will?

Almost always the answer is yes. Without a will, the courts will decide who will receive your assets and who will manage your estate based on the laws of where you live. As a result, the people and charities that you would like to bless may not be blessed. A will allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children, appoint an executor to carry out your wishes, and determine the final destination of your estate assets.

Creating a will is, in itself, an incredible act of stewardship. In fact, the decisions you make in your will eventually become your last act of stewardship. Not only are you being responsible in the distribution of the blessings God has given you, you are also able to designate a portion of your estate to support the ministries you love. For most people, a charitable gift in their estate can be their single biggest gift of their lifetime. What an honor to be a blessing to your family and the church at the same time.

6. What is Planned Giving

“Planned Giving” means mapping out a plan for making a gift to a charitable organization at a future date. A caring person integrates planned giving into their financial strategies during different stages of life. You spend a lifetime building up assets so it only makes sense to plan out how those assets will be distributed. Planned giving enables a donor to thank God for all of the blessings they have received and strategically develop gifts that benefit both the estate and the church.

Planned giving takes on many forms and is tailored to meet the needs and goals of the donor. Each person’s giving desires make each gift unique and important regardless of size. Martin Luther stated, “The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious.”

7. When is the best time to establish a planned gift?

It is human nature to procrastinate on difficult decisions, but essentially the best time to establish a planned gift is right now. Planning takes time, is brought about through prayer, discernment, and trust in God. It usually involves your spouse if you are married, perhaps your family, as well as professional advisors to develop and implement your gift. Since we do not know when God will take us home to be with Him in heaven, it would seem reasonable that we begin the process of planning sooner than later.

Your gift plans may change over time and may be dependent on your particular situation. When you are in your 30s or 40s with a young growing family, you may simply want to establish a gift as a percentage of your estate. As you get older, you may be able to develop a current gift in life as well as a greater gift upon your death. When your children are grown and financially secure, you may decide a greater percentage of your estate can go to charity. If you are single without heirs, you have a great opportunity to give 100% of your estate to charity. Timing can have a significant impact on what your gift looks like.

8. What are the benefits of making a charitable gift through my will?

Charitable bequests established in your will are fulfilled at a time when you no longer need the assets anymore. Usually bequests are written to occur upon the second-to-die in a spousal relationship. This way when one spouse dies, the estate is transferred to the surviving spouse, and only after their death does the gift occur. A gift in your will may also provide a generous tax benefit to your estate. In most provinces the value of the tax benefit averages 45% of the value of the gift. Charitable bequests, as a percentage of your estate or as a dollar value, can be the most appropriate method of establishing your gift.

9. What are the benefits of leaving my RSP or RIF assets to charity?

Your RSP or RIF is one of the most heavily taxed estate assets to pass to your heirs. When you die, unless you have a spouse to leave these assets to, the full amount of your RSP or RIF will be considered part of your income in the year of death. Depending on the value of your RSP or RIF, your estate could end up giving as much as half of it away to the government in income tax. It is not uncommon for many people to have built up a sizeable RSP or RIF. One way of reducing or eliminating this tax liability is to name a charity as the beneficiary of your plan. When you or your surviving spouse dies, your RSP or RIF is transferred to the named charity avoiding probate and your estate receives a charitable tax receipt offsetting the tax owing on that amount.

10. I have a life insurance policy I don’t need. Can I gift that?

Yes. Life insurance is one of the easiest ways to establish a charitable gift. It doesn’t require a change to your will at all. You simply change the beneficiary of the policy to a charity. The proceeds of the policy get paid directly to the charity upon your death and are not held up in probate or estate settlement. Your estate will receive a charitable receipt based on the value of the policy. You can also make the charity the owner and beneficiary of the policy whereby you will receive immediate tax benefits and potential annual benefits if there are still premiums being paid. Even if you don’t have a life insurance policy, purchasing one may be the most cost effective and appropriate way to establish your gift.

11. Can I leave a significant gift to charity while not depleting my children’s inheritance?

Yes, through the purchase of wealth replacement insurance. If you have the ability to establish a significant gift today, by transferring cash, securities, or property to a charity, the tax credit you receive from that gift may be more than enough to purchase insurance equal to or greater than the amount gifted. Depending on the type of gift, you may also be able to receive an annual income stream. A gift structure like this benefits the donor, the charity and the donor’s family. It ensures the assets gifted to charity during the life of the insured and the proceeds of the life insurance policy do not become part of the donor’s estate. As a result, they are not subject to probate fees, creditor claims or potential claims.

12. Can I make my charitable gift during my lifetime?

Absolutely. Some donors want to see their gift in action while they are alive. You may have assets you do not require to live comfortably and/or it may be more beneficial to give today than when you die. You may want to take advantage of the tax benefits while you are alive, especially if you are about to sell a significant asset like farmland, a cottage or rental property. Some types of gifts will even provide an annual income or the use of your asset during life until you die. Finally, you may not have any heirs to leave your estate to. By giving a gift in your lifetime, you are making the decisions today to benefit your chosen charities and receive the satisfaction of seeing your gift provide wonderful support.

13. How can I reduce the taxes my estate may have to pay upon my death?

Most people often overlook that the first beneficiary of almost every estate is the government due to taxes on income and other assets. What you thought might go to your heirs may in fact go to the government. You don’t have a choice on giving your estate away when you die, but you do have a choice on who gets it and sometimes on how it is used. By establishing a charitable gift to your church or other ministry of LCC, you redirect tax dollars to support things important to you rather than the government. Your church is probably one of the most significant charities in your life. After all, you have been blessed to be a part of your church family through great times and sorrowful times. And you have already received the greatest inheritance you will ever receive, that being eternal life with your Father in Heaven. Through careful planning you may be able to reduce or eliminate all taxes owing at the time of your death through charitable giving while still leaving the majority of your estate to your family.

14. How can I make a large gift to my church without disrupting our annual stewardship decisions?

Sometimes when a congregation receives a large donation, members tend to pull back on their annual giving thinking the church now has lots of money. Unfortunately, this is our old Adam speaking and is not something we should be proud of. By establishing a congregation gift fund and creating a gift acceptance policy, your congregation can be proactive in how gifts will be received, invested, and allocated. Gift funds are specifically designed to build on the mission and ministry of your church and not usually to replace the annual offerings of individuals. When members give to the gift fund, they do so knowing how their resources will be utilized and therefore may become even more inclined to increase the value of their gift. The gift fund supports the congregation’s mission and ministry today and into the future, ensuring the work of sharing the Gospel and bringing people to Christ continues.

15. Do I need to work with Lutheran Foundation Canada to establish a gift?

No you do not. You can certainly establish a gift in your will with the help of your lawyer without any involvement from the Foundation. However, there may be significant advantages of using the services of the Foundation. These include:

  • Naming the Foundation as the primary beneficiary in your will instead of having multiple beneficiaries listed. Then, through a Gift Allocation Agreement with the Foundation, you can state how you want your gift to be distributed. This has multiple cost savings and introduces a level of privacy and confidentiality in your decisions.
  • Allowing you the opportunity to make future changes to your charitable wishes without having to change your will.
  • Making the task of managing your estate easier for your executor with respect to charitable giving as he/she only has to work with one entity. We will take care of distributing your gift to the charities listed in your Gift Allocation Agreement at no cost to your estate
  • Providing an anonymous gift if so desired.
  • Providing assistance in the various gift strategies you may employ and helping you draft up appropriate language for your lawyer to place in your will.
  • Reducing the cost of creating or changing your will by ensuring all of your information is available and correct prior to visiting your lawyer.
  • Understanding your charitable wishes and the needs of the various LCC ministries and auxiliaries, thereby helping you connect with the ministries you love in a manner that is most beneficial to you, your estate, and your chosen charitable organizations.
  • Being able to share your story with someone of the same faith and belief that understands the importance of thanking God for the many blessings He has bestowed on us.
16. Does Lutheran Foundation Canada provide any additional material, resources, workshops or seminars that I could attend to learn more?

Yes we do. One of the best ways to get additional information is to continue going through our website which you are on right now. We also encourage congregations to meet with one of our representatives and invite us to present a seminar on different topics associated with estate planning and planned giving. We have a number of different approaches depending on your congregation’s needs. Finally, we assist church councils, pastors, and elders in the development of policies, communication materials, and stewardship programs that assist members in the establishment of charitable gifts.