Leave a legacy of faith

Your legacy -- have you ever thought about what that will be?

Most of us want to make a difference in the lives of our loved ones now and when we are no longer here. We take steps to make sure they will be cared for. But what if you want to make a difference in the Church for years to come? Many Catholics, recognizing that their gifts come ultimately from God and desiring to return them to God with increase, choose to leave a spiritual legacy to their families and the Church through their will or estate plan.

Leaving a legacy gift to the Church is easier than you might think. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this goal is to make gifts in your will or other long-range plans. You can name a parish, Catholic school, Catholic agency, the Catholic Foundation, the Archdiocese of Boston or its many ministries in your will in the same way you make bequests to children, grandchildren and other heirs. This can often be accomplished through a minor modification of your existing plan.

A properly drawn will is one of the most important papers you will ever sign. It is a document that will speak from your mind and heart, and ensure that your wishes for your estate and loved ones are realized. A will provides security for your family, remembers loved ones in a tangible way, leaves a legacy to your Church, designates who will manage your estate and reduces estate taxes and administration expenses.

An important point to remember is that if you don’t make a will, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will make one for you. State rules and regulations -- not your wishes -- will determine how your property will be distributed upon your death, who will oversee your assets, and who will care for your children. Without a will, you have no control over the distribution of your estate, and you will most likely increase your estate’s administration expenses and tax burden.

So every Catholic has a choice to make between “voluntary philanthropy” and “involuntary philanthropy.” Voluntary philanthropy is when you decide how to share your estate with your loved ones and to organizations like the Church. “Involuntary philanthropy” is when the state controls what happens with your estate -- and, in most cases, benefits from increased taxes on your estate.

Yet, national estimates say that 60 percent of Americans choose involuntary philanthropy because they don’t prepare a will or estate plan. Statistics show that the 40 percent who do compose a will spend only an average of 8 hours planning it -- less time than most Americans devote to buying a car!

The Church here in the Archdiocese of Boston wants to do something about those statistics for our Catholic parishioners. The Catholic Foundation (TCF) is launching an initiative to encourage and help parishes to hold will and estate planning seminars for their parishioners. The primary objective is to help Catholic parishioners take the steps necessary for establishing an estate plan. A secondary objective, of course, is our hope that many Catholics, after providing for their loved ones, will remember their parish, Catholic school, favorite ministry or the general needs of the Church. For years, the Church has relied on wills and bequest gifts to help pass on the Good News of our faith. With rising costs affecting Catholic families, wills and bequest gifts become even more important for passing on the faith to future generations.

We are specifically encouraging all Catholics to have both a legal will -- which properly handles the distribution of assets to loved ones and organizations in which they want to make a long-term difference -- and also a spiritual will. A spiritual will is the “voice of the heart,” leaving behind our lessons, stories, priorities, hopes, blessings, spiritual values, forgiveness and love. A spiritual will is as unique as the person writing it. Spiritual wills can leave what’s most important to your loved ones, beyond material possessions.

We have all inherited a strong legacy from our families and through our Church. As Catholics, we have discovered the truths of who Christ is, how much God loves us, and how Christ “purchased for us” the hope of eternal life. We have learned this through the generosity of Catholics throughout the 2,000 years of the Church and the 200 years of the Archdiocese of Boston. Our predecessors were given much and they, in turn, gave much to ensure that the Church’s mission and good works would grow and continue to transform individuals, communities and the world. Now it is our turn to ensure that we can make a difference for our loved ones and for those who need to experience the saving love of Christ through the Church. Now is our turn to leave a Legacy of Faith.

TCF’s Fall Fundraising Forum on Planned Giving & Estate Planning for parishes and agencies will held be on Oct. 18. Please see www.BostonCatholicAppeal.org/FallForums for more information or to register. To learn more about ways individuals can leave a Legacy of Faith, please see http://RCAB.org/Development/ or call 617-779-3700.

Scot Landry is Secretary for Advancement & Chief Development Officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.