You’ve shopped. You’ve found. You’ve spent. And now that the holidays are over, what’s left to remind you of all those perfect gifts you found? Often, the answer is: nothing but your depleted bank account. If you’re lucky, you have “rewards” on your credit card bill – but even “cash back” programs don’t help that much.

What if you could increase your current income by making a gift, any time of year? The idea makes a lot of people feel pretty generous. Or you could provide inheritances for your heirs at a reduced tax cost, while contributing to your favorite charity in the meantime. Welcome to planned giving: estate planning that includes philanthropy as one of its elements.

There are many different ways to give cash, securities, or property. For instance, you could create a charitable gift annuity. If you do, you’d get regular payments, in a set amount – guaranteed – for the rest of your life, in exchange for your present-day contribution to the charity. Want to get a higher amount paid out to you, without risking the stock market or playing the horses? Defer your annuity until retirement – but take the income tax deduction now, when you need it.

That’s not all. A charitable lead trust allows your chosen organization to get the benefit of your designated assets now – and your heirs to get those same assets later, with all appreciation in the meantime included tax-free for your heirs.

There are as many different charities as there are needs in the world. It doesn’t matter whether the impact is local or global, whether it benefits humans or animals, or whether you’ve ever donated a dime before. The government recognizes thousands of charitable organizations; one of them might just be perfect for you.

A lot of people think “estate planning” just means deciding who gets your stuff when you die. That’s part of it, sure, but a good attorney can do a whole lot more. Gifts incorporated into your estate plan can be revocable or irrevocable. Planned giving can mean making gifts available for use at the time they are given, or gifts that may not be available until a future date. What’s right for you?

St. Francis of Assisi said that “it is in giving that we receive.” Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t speaking metaphorically. If you’re wishing you could find a way to contribute to your favorite cause, you might consider talking to a financial planner about your goals. Then see an attorney to help you meet those goals through planned giving.