Beneficiary Designations and the Importance of Sharing Your Intentions

Protect your future gift by following these simple steps.

Naming a charity as a beneficiary of your retirement account can be an effective way to make a future gift with a lasting impact. But be sure to take the step of notifying those beneficiaries of the plans you have made.

Understandably, you may have reasons to keep this information private from some beneficiaries, but in doing so, your gift is at risk of not being used as you intended or even going unclaimed. Notifying the beneficiaries of your plans helps to ensure that your intentions are preserved and enables the charitable organization to carry out your wishes.

Protect your future gift by following these simple steps:

  1. Review all your beneficiary designations. These may include life insurance, retirement plans, and commercial annuities.
  2. Notify your beneficiaries of your intentions so they are prepared to receive your gift when the time comes.
  3. Share any details with your beneficiaries about how you would like your gift to be used, if applicable.

Interested in naming Duke as a beneficiary? Duke’s Office of Gift Planning has charitable planning professionals available to work with you and your advisors. Contact us at or (919) 681-0464.

TAGS: Charitable Giving Strategies retirement account designations bequests gifts of life insurance

About the author

Karen Smedley

Karen is assistant director of the trust and estate administration for Duke University. She has extensive expertise in managing all classes of death claims including estates, trusts, IRA beneficiary claims, and brokerage accounts. Smedley is the founder and facilitator of RIFT advocates. She earned her master of studies in law from Wake Forest University School of Law with an emphasis on business law and compliance and a B.A. in public administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.