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4 reasons to make a charitable gift through your retirement account

January 23, 2015 | by Jeremy Arkin

4 reasons to make a charitable gift through your retirement account

Think for a moment about everything you own...your car, your home, maybe another property that you purchased as a get-away or an investment, and your various investment accounts and bank accounts.  Which is worth the most?

For many of us, it's our retirement accounts.  If you've been contributing to these accounts year after year, then—despite some downturns—your investments held by these accounts may have grown substantially. 

How does this relate to making an impact at Duke?

Naming Duke as a beneficiary of a qualified retirement account may allow you to make a much larger gift to the university than you thought possible.  Here are four reasons why designating  Duke as a beneficiary of a retirement account may be a great way to leave a lasting legacy:

1. Flexibility

When you name Duke as the beneficiary of a retirement account, you are putting in place a gift that will occur in the future (when you pass away).  Until then, the assets in the account remain available in case you need them. 

In addition, you can always change the beneficiary designation in the future. And you can designate Duke to receive a specific dollar amount or a percentage of the account, whichever is right for you.  Your spouse, other loved ones or other charities can be named to receive the rest. 

2. Ease

To designate Duke to receive a gift from your retirement account, simply complete a Beneficiary Designation Form provided by the company that manages the account.  This form may even be available online once you log into your account.  

3.  Tax Advantages

Heirs, such as a spouse or other loved ones, will probably be required to pay income tax when they withdraw money from a retirement account they inherited from you (unless the account is a Roth IRA account).

On the other hand, because Duke is tax-exempt, the university will not owe income tax on any distributions from your account, allowing each dollar left to Duke to support its mission. For donors who will owe estate tax, there may be additional tax advantages. For more information about these tax benefits or to receive our one-pager on gifts from your retirement account, please email me. And, of course, please also confer with your personal tax advisor. 

4.  Recognition by Duke

Your gift will remain completely non-binding and, if you like, confidential.   We will be thrilled to invite you into The Duke University Heritage Society and the current estimated value of your gift will be recognized toward the giving requirements of the James B. Duke and Braxton Craven Fellows Societies. For those with undergraduate degrees from Trinity College of Arts & Sciences or Pratt School of Engineering, your retirement account gift will also count toward your class's comprehensive goal at your next reunion!

If you decide to support Duke in this way, please let us know by completing our Confirmation of Legacy Gift Form or by contacting our office.

About the author


Jeremy Arkin Assistant Vice President of Gift Planning

With more than 15 years of experience in gift planning and development, Jeremy helps alumni find ways to support Duke that complement their larger personal and financial goals. He understands the ins and outs of giving techniques that involve tax, retirement and estate planning. He also develops strategies for donating complex assets such as real estate and private business interests. When he's not at work, Jeremy attempts to channel Ron Carter and Ray Brown while playing his double bass.

Jeremy Arkin can be contacted via email or by phone at (919) 613-6195.

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