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Manitobans' generosity continues after death

Region ranks highly for estate charity

Malcolm Burrows

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Malcolm Burrows

Not only are Manitobans near the top when it comes to giving to charities while they're alive, they're also among the country's most generous after they're gone.

A new Scotiabank poll has found residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan -- it lumps the two provinces together -- are the most likely in Canada to leave some of their estate to charity.

It said 37 per cent of Prairie respondents who have a written will said they intend to leave money to charities. That's a whopping 15 percentage points higher than the national average of 22 per cent.

Malcolm Burrows, head of philanthropic advisory services at Scotiatrust, said this is the first year Scotiabank has polled investors about their plans for leaving money to charities. And he wasn't surprised to see Manitoba/Saskatchewan residents at the top of the list.

"It's completely consistent with other behaviours," he said, noting Manitoba historically has been in the top one or two in terms of Canadian residents who declare charitable donations on their income tax returns.

He also noted Canada's community-foundation movement got its start in Winnipeg in 1921.

"I think there is still a bit more of a frontier-community culture in Western Canada. I think the motivation comes from the community. It's community connections and people's involvement and beliefs," he explained.

"It's also a really good indication of the health of the community that they have this many people wanting to give back to the community," he added.

Burrows said it was also encouraging to see more Canadians leaving money to charities in their will because these donations are typically much larger than the average lifetime gift.

He attributed those trends to two things: more childless couples today and more people living longer. In the case of the latter, their children are often older and already well-established, so they don't feel as great a need to leave all of their estate to their children.

In the Scotiabank poll, the top three reasons Canadians cited for leaving some of their estate to charity were a desire to give back to society (60 per cent), not having dependents and wanting their money to go to a good cause (20 per cent), and for the tax benefits (12 per cent).

And the top reasons they gave for not leaving a gift were wanting to leave money to their beneficiaries (64 per cent), affordability (22 per cent), and already giving to philanthropic causes during their lifetime (20 per cent).

One of the more surprising results, the bank said, was only four in 10 (39 per cent) of Canadians said they were aware of the tax benefits associated with charitable giving.

"With only 39 per cent of Canadians aware of the tax benefits associated with gifts by will to charity, many may not know that Canada has the most generous tax benefits in the world for gifts by will," Burrows said.

"While taxes are not the primary reason to give, tax savings greatly reduce the cost to other beneficiaries. A gift by will generates a non-refundable tax credit that can be claimed against tax owing, and new rules provide a five-year claim period against up to 100 per cent of net income."

Some other key poll results were:

-- Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 years are the most likely to leave some of their estate to charity, compared to 17 per cent of those aged 45 to 54 years.

-- The older Canadians get, the more aware they are of the benefits of leaving money to charities.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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