Planned Gifts and Bequests

Planned gifts left in a will, trust, or other mechanism are some of the largest single gifts MNA receives in a year. In fact, in recent years, MNA’s largest single gift has been a planned gift or bequest.

Whichever mechanism you choose, a planned gift involves a benefit that shifts when the donor’s life ends. Most often, a gift moves to the Michigan Nature Association, but as you will find here, there are a wide variety of planned giving options. MNA representatives can talk with you about your planned giving ideas and intentions, but you should also consult your legal and/or financial advisers before completing any planned gift document. MNA has summarized the more common vehicles used to meet your end-of-life gift decisions here:

Gift by Will

A will is the most common form of planned giving and the one most people are familiar with. A will can direct virtually any type of gift to MNA upon the member’s death. One benefit of a will is the costs of executing a will can be very low, and a close friend or family member can be appointed to carry out the bequest.

Life Insurance Policy

Typically, a member names MNA as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. One benefit is that payment of a life insurance policy does not have to go through probate.

Real Property Bequests

MNA accepts bequests of property. The two major types of property are natural areas that are intended for use as a sanctuary, and real estate such as houses, commercial property, or other land intended for resale with the proceeds to benefit MNA.

For more information about real property bequests, click here.

Real Property Bequests with a retained life estate

This type of gift is initiated when the member is living. A gift of land is made to MNA, with a “life estate” retained by the member. The member has full use of the land during their life, and upon death, the ownership automatically reverts to MNA.

IRAs, 401Ks, and other retirement plans

Gifts can be given from retirement accounts during a member’s lifetime, or MNA can be listed as the beneficiary of the account, receiving the balance upon death. This also avoids probate.

Charitible Gift Annuities

Here, a member transfers an asset to MNA during their life. Then MNA pays the member a fixed percentage during their lifetime, and the remainder of the asset passes to MNA. One benefit is that part of the initial transfer amount is tax deductible.

For more information about charitable gift annuities, click here.

Deferred Payment Annuities

In this type of annuity, a member transfers an asset to MNA, usually earlier in life. The annuity payments are withheld until the member is at least 60 years of age or until some set date after that point in life. One benefit is that the member usually receives a higher rate of return because of the deferred gift. Another benefit is that the member will usually also receive a larger charitable tax deduction.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts

Similar to a charitable gift annuity, here the member transfers assets to a trust instead of directly to MNA. The trust then makes fixed annual payments to the member or specific beneficiaries.  When the trust terminates, the remainder then passes to MNA. One benefit is that the member receives the tax deduction immediately when the trust is created instead of when MNA receives the remainder.

Charitable Remainder Unitrusts

This is similar to the charitable remainder annuity trust, with the main difference being that the annuity payments are not fixed, but variable, with the value recomputed annually.  The main benefit here is that the member can continue to make additional gifts to the trust during their lifetime, thus increasing the annuity payments they receive and qualifying for additional tax deductions.

Charitable Lead Unitrusts

This instrument is in some ways the reverse of the above trusts. Here, the member puts an asset into a trust; then the income, defined as a percentage of the trust, goes to MNA during the trust period. When the trust terminates, the remainder goes to the member’s family or other designated beneficiary. One benefit is that the trust term is not only defined by the life of the member; it can be a term of years or the life of one or more named individuals.

Charitable Lead Annuity Unitrusts

Similar to the above trust, this instrument pays a fixed sum to MNA during a set period of time. After this period, the trust can redetermine the payment amount for the remainder of the trust term.

Join the Guardians of the Future

Leaving a gift to the Michigan Nature Association in a will, trust, or life insurance policy or other planned gift has a lasting legacy. Those who have included MNA in their planned gifts are our "Guardians of the Future" because their actions are protecting the future of MNA and its nature sanctuaries across the state. We hope that you will choose to become a Guardian of the Future and help to ensure that Michigan's future has a place for the wonderful natural areas you've helped us protect.

MNA would be happy to answer questions you have regarding planned giving or visit with you to discuss your wishes and how they might be carried out. We can also refer to estate planners in Michigan who may be able to help you with the completion of a planned gift.

To learn more about how you can contribute to the Michigan Nature Association, please contact Executive Director Garret Johnson at or call (866) 223-2231.