March 8, 2011 -- So you've just come into money, but you don't know whether to invest it or donate it. "Good Morning America" personal finance contributor Mellody Hobson is here to help answer your questions.
Get a Certified Financial Planner
All right, let's get serious about your new wealth and its consequences to your financial future. We'll start by finding a certified financial planner to help you devise a plan that matches your goals. Certified financial planner or CFP's are financial advisors who have been trained to create and implement financial plans for investors. They have passed a rigorous exam and must abide by certain standards and continuing education requirements. To find a CFP go to the certified financial planner board of standards website. Before you hire a CFP make sure you interview them. It's important to understand their philosophy and fee structure. Be sure to ask for references.
Donate to Charity
Now, if you are thinking about charitable contributions then websites like charitynavigator.org and guidestar.org are fantastic resources for not only finding charities that meet your goals, but also those that pass along the most money to people who actually need it. Once you narrow down the list to a few candidates feel free to visit those charities and interview staff members. Something to keep in mind is that only donations to organizations with 501(c)3 status are tax deductible.
Write a Will
Now that we've broached the topic of giving, we need to talk about one last thing, the big give – your will. I can't stress this enough you need to have a will. Your new financial situation makes things a bit more complicated than it might have been previously, but that shouldn't prevent you from making this happen. So find a knowledgeable attorney versed in estate planning who will create a will and protect your assets. If you think you are going to have a simple will then use a website like legalzoom.com. It can save you time and money.