Establishing a will or trust makes sure that what is done with an individual's estate reflects their values and priorities. If giving to a parish or ministry is part of your life, a will or trust is one way for this priority to be reflected at your death.
What Happens If I Don't Have a Will?
If you do not have a will, at your death many of your assets will be distributed according to someone else's rules. You may have beneficiaries designated on your life insurance policy and/or retirement plan. If so, these assets can be passed on to your loved ones, parish, or other charities as you have decided. However, for many of your assets, often including money in bank accounts, real estate, and non-retirement investment portfolios, state laws will dictate what happens to them if you don’t express your wishes in a will or a trust. In some cases, it is even possible that your assets may go to the state. The situation gets more complex if you own property in more than one state, if your surviving children are from a different spouse, or any number of other situations.
Align Your Will with Your Values
If you don't like the idea of having rules made by the state control what happens to your assets after your death, you can make your own set of rules. That's what a will or trust is—a set of rules for passing on your assets in ways that reflect your values, not those of someone else.
As you consider how to best align your will with your values, consider these ideas for setting aside some of your assets for charitable gifts:
- As you divide your estate among your descendants, think of your parish or the charity you want to include as an additional child or grandchild.
- Set aside a percentage of your total estate as a charitable gift. For example, if you gave 10% of your income to your parish during life, set a similar percentage aside for your parish in your will.
- Consider endowing your annual pledge by establishing an endowed fund with TFE through your will or trust.
How Do I Make a Will or Trust?
TFE recommends seeing a legal advisor for help in setting up your will or trust. Before your appointment with your legal advisor, make sure you—
- List all of your assets, including your home and other real estate, bank accounts and investments, life insurance, retirement accounts, and other valuables.
- List all of the individuals and organizations you want to include in your will.
- If you have dependent children, make sure you have someone who can serve as guardian if needed.
Both before and after making your will, it's a good idea to communicate with your family about your wishes and decisions. This is a great opportunity to explain and even pass on your values to your children.