Tax law treats donations very differently than bequests. Donating appreciated assets to charity during one’s own lifetime avoids the capital gains tax while benefiting a charity.

But bequeathing such assets to charity at death has very different implications. Under current law, appreciated assets get a basis step-up to current value at death, so the heirs won't owe income tax on the gains. On the other hand, if those same assets are left to charity, the tax break is lost.

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