The Estate Planning Benefits of Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs)

Estate planning often extends beyond ensuring financial security for your loved ones. Many people also aim to leave a lasting legacy through charitable giving.

Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) offer a strategic way to manage philanthropic efforts while optimizing your estate. Here’s an in-depth look at the benefits of using DAFs in estate planning and a guide on how to set one up.

What are Donor-Advised Funds?


Donor-Advised Funds are charitable giving accounts administered by a sponsoring organization, typically a nonprofit. Once you contribute to a DAF, you receive an immediate tax deduction, and the funds are invested for tax-free growth. Over time, you can recommend grants to various charitable organizations from this fund.

Key Benefits in Estate Planning

Tax Advantages:

Immediate Tax Deductions:

One of the most immediate benefits is the tax deduction you receive when you contribute assets to a DAF. This can be particularly advantageous if you have a high-income year and need a way to offset taxable income.

No Capital Gains Tax:

Assets in a DAF grow tax-free, and donating appreciated assets directly to a DAF can help you avoid capital gains taxes. This is a smarter strategy than selling the assets and then donating the proceeds, as you would then be responsible for capital gains tax.

Simplified Record-Keeping:

DAFs provide centralized record-keeping, making it easier to track donations for tax purposes. Your DAF account will provide a detailed history of your contributions, any investment growth, and grants made to charities.

Strategic Charitable Giving:

You retain advisory privileges over the DAF, meaning you can direct how the funds are disbursed to charities. This allows for a more hands-on approach to philanthropy without the administrative burden of managing a private foundation.

Legacy Planning:

DAFs can be named as beneficiaries in your will or estate plan. This ensures that your philanthropic endeavors continue beyond your lifetime, reinforcing your commitment to the causes you care about.

How to Set Up a Donor-Advised Fund

Choose a Sponsoring Organization:

The first step is to select a sponsoring organization that aligns with your philanthropic goals. Many financial institutions offer DAFs, as do some charitable organizations.

Fund Your Account:

You can fund your DAF with various types of assets such as cash, stocks, or real estate. The minimum initial contribution generally ranges from $5,000 to $25,000, depending on the sponsoring organization.

Make Grant Recommendations:

Once your account is set up, you can start recommending grants to qualified charities. Some DAFs have an online platform that makes it easy to manage your donations.

Review and Update:

It’s important to review your DAF in the context of your larger estate plan regularly. Make adjustments as your financial situation or philanthropic objectives change.


Donor-Advised Funds offer an effective and flexible way to integrate charitable giving into your estate planning strategy. They provide numerous benefits, including tax advantages, simplified record-keeping, and the ability to leave a lasting legacy. Setting up a DAF is relatively straightforward, but always consult with legal and financial advisors to ensure it aligns with your overall estate planning goals.

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