Stewardship Through Your Will
Why Make a Gift Through a Will?
A few years ago, a Catholic couple asked their pastor how they could do something special for the parish. They were retired, and their children were successful, but they knew they would need their savings to see them through retirement.
Their friend and pastor made an obvious reply: "Would you consider putting the parish in your will?"
As a result of that conversation they each included the parish in their will, and today their church has a renovated parish center dedicated to their memory. It even has a modern kitchen that makes their parish even more successful as teh center of the Catholic community. Today, thousands of their friends, loved ones, and fellow parishioners use this parish center.
That's the magic of a will. You control your possessions at the time of your death, a time when you want to show the importance you place on your parish, your family, and your friends.
You may have heard your pastor make this point: we really own nothing on Earth. God showers us with His blessings and we are only His stewards of them. As His stewards, we should return some of these blessings to God's Church. Each parish in an individual community in Christ's Church. To Catholics it is the center of our faith and our lives. It is the parish which should receive our first thought when we think of sharing our blessings with others.
But why make a gift through a will?
First, there are practical reasons. Few of us can make significant gifts while we are living. We have to provide for our loved ones, educate our children, and so on.
A will also can offer convenience. It may be more practical for your parish, rather than a family member living far away, to assume ownership of your house after you are gone. The parish may provide a convenient solution in may other special cases that arise involving stock, partnerships, or valuable collections, for example.
And, you can direct dollars to your parish that might otherwise go to government taxes. In that way you know that the dollars will be used in a manner similar to your beliefs, values, and moral commitments.
Finally -- and the list of reasons could be much longer -- your parish needs your support. The parish buildings face the same kind of upkeep as your own home. Worshipping God in comfort means maintaining the church's roof, painting the walls, and occasionally repairing the sound system. Music and, yes, even altar wine and hosts cost hundreds of dollars a year.
Showing Your Appreciation
Your parish should be part of your will. You have special reasons to appreciate your parish throughout your life. It is the parish that provides the comfort of Christ's message and access to the sacraments, and your parish is your teacher in matters of faith and morals. It is a comfortable circle of people who share similar beliefs. The parish cares about you and you care about the parish. That is important to your well being.
Most of us understand the importance of a will, yet we know that without a will the assets they worked a lifetime to accumulate will be distributed according to formulas established in state statutes. If no heirs exist, all your estate may be taken by the state.
Many, many Catholics still do not have a will.
Why don't some of us have a will? Often the answer borders on superstition, a fear that thinking about death may bring it about. Obviously, God never intended us to have such fears.
Another reason not to have a will is a fear that an attorney's fee will be very expensive. A simple will is very inexpensive and, in many cases it will ultimately save a great deal in estate taxes.
Making Gifts Through Your Will
There are several ways to make a gift through a will. One is a bequest stating a dollar amount to be given to the parish. You may leave a piece of property or shares of stock in the same way.
Another way to remember your parish is to leave a percentage of your estate, perhaps 10 percent . Percentages allow the parish to benefit more as your assets grow, even if you do not update your will regularly.
You can leave the parish all of the remainder of your estate after specific gifts have been made to others.
Similarly, you may include contingencies in your will. These are provisions that take effect in the event something else has happened. You could leave all of your estate to your parish in the event that your spouse has preceded you in death, for example.
You can put your money in trust, so that a loved one receives the income from investments during their lifetime and the investments pass to the parish after the relative's death. There are several other possibilities your attorney can explain to you.
Whatever method you choose, you should have an attorney prepare the document. Also, you can discuss your gift with you pastor, obtaining from him the exact legal name of the parish.
But you may already have a will which does not provide for your parish. As a good steward, you will want to include your parish. Ask your attorney whether a codicil (an ammendment to a will) is an appropriate way to add your parish to your will.
Continuing the Church
Your parish has given you a lifetime of experiences, caring for your spiritual well being. As a steward, you should take the steps necessary to help it serve others in the future. Wills need not wait for major lifetime events in order to be written. Discuss your desire to help with your pastor now, and with an attorney you respect. A gift through a will can be the cause for life-long satisfaction.
For estate planning purposes, the legal name of the parish is:
Roman Catholic Church
Syracuse, New York
This information is not legal advice. Consult your attorney and financial advisors in these matters.
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