One of the simplest ways to make a gift to Columbia University is to designate Columbia to receive your assets at the end of your lifetime. You can specify all or a percentage of the assets you want each beneficiary to receive. Often, it's as easy as filling out a form.
Beneficiary designations are an option for giving the following financial assets:
Retirement Account assets
An alternative to a charitable bequest is to designate Columbia University as the beneficiary of your retirement account assets. This gift is simple because there is no need to modify your will or living trust. All you need to do is complete a beneficiary designation form with your plan administrator.
A gift of retirement assets has the added advantage of being a very tax-wise way to make an estate gift. This is because your retirement assets, if left to individuals, will be subject to income tax when they receive distributions and, for most non-spouses, those distributions must take place within 10 years, potentially pushing your beneficiaries into higher income tax brackets. If you give your retirement assets to a tax-exempt organization such as Columbia, 100 percent of the retirement assets will be available for its charitable purposes. If you want to remember us in your estate plan, a tax-efficient strategy is to leave other types of assets—cash, securities, real estate—to your heirs and give the more heavily taxed retirement assets to Columbia University.
Note: Directing your retirement assets to both charitable and noncharitable beneficiaries can accelerate the income tax. Always consult with your advisors before naming the beneficiaries of your retirement assets.
You can also use a life insurance policy to make a gift to Columbia. It’s usually as simple as completing a form with the insurance company designating Columbia University as the beneficiary of all or a portion of the death benefit of your life insurance policy. As an alternative to naming Columbia as the beneficiary, you can transfer ownership of the policy. Transferring ownership can produce an immediate income tax charitable deduction for the value of the policy and future income tax deductions if you continue to pay premiums on the policy.
Commercial Annuity Contracts: a commercial annuity will sometimes have a remaining value at the end of the annuitant’s lifetime. You can name Columbia to receive all or part of this amount by designating us as a beneficiary (sole or partial) on the appropriate form from the insurance company.
Bank Accounts: you can instruct your bank to pay Columbia all or a portion of what remains in a checking or savings account. Your bank can provide you with the appropriate beneficiary designation form.
Investment Accounts: you can instruct your investment company to transfer to Columbia some or all investments held in the account at the time of your passing. Your broker or agent can help you complete the process, which may be as simple as amending the name on the account to include Columbia University.