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Why All the Talk about Legacy Giving?


By Alison Poetsch,
Individual Giving Manager, Catholic Charities

If you don’t think you need an estate plan, think again. It’s important to know that without a will in place, the government will decide the distribution of your belongings after you pass.  Who wants that to happen?

Many Catholic institutions such as Catholic Charities, your parish, Catholic Cemeteries and the Catholic Community Foundation have been promoting the benefits of estate planning. There’s value in their message, even if you don’t have a lot of money to leave behind!

Depending on your stage of life, your estate planning needs differ. Act now to protect your family, your assets and your wishes for their future distribution.

Under 50 years old — You will want to provide for the care of your children and know that you have someone you trust assigned to manage your affairs. You may also find yourself supporting a parent or relative and wanting to establish a steady income stream for this loved one.

50 – 70 years old — Protecting the home and life you’ve created, and planning for retirement are important at this stage. If you have adult children, step children and grandchildren all in different financial circumstances, a more complex plan may be needed.

Over 70 years old – Perhaps you’ve already got a will/trust in place, so now it needs an update to account for family and tax-law changes. It can also be a good time to convert a low-performing asset into a charitable gift that can pay you or a loved one income for the remainder of your lives.

Regardless of your age, you may want to think about your legacy and the beneficial impact you can have for the generations that follow. Including your favorite charities in your estate plans demonstrates your values and can provide tax benefits for you and your loved ones. Here are some ways to extend your impact beyond your lifetime:

Most common – a bequest:  You can leave a specific amount, a specific piece of property or a percentage of your estate to a Catholic ministry such as your parish or Catholic Charities.

No attorney needed – a beneficiary designation:  Consider naming your favorite Catholic ministry as beneficiary to a life insurance policy, 401k, IRA or stock portfolio. This approach can have tax-saving benefits to your heirs since retirement funds pass tax-free to charities and keeps the retirement assets out of the estate altogether.

Gives steady income for life – a Charitable Gift Annuity: Make a lump sum charitable gift and receive an immediate tax benefit.

In exchange, the charity agrees to pay fixed annual payments to you (or other designated individual) for your lifetime.
There is a lot to estate planning but it doesn’t have to be intimidating — just get started! Make sure you take the time to protect your family and craft your legacy the way you want it to be.

Real Basics about Estate Planning

  • Estate planning is for everyone.
  • Estate planning allows you to protect the people and causes you care about most.
  • Estate plans need to be reviewed regularly — tax laws change and family circumstances are constantly changing.
  • Estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated.
  • If you don’t establish appropriate legal directives, the State calls the shots. This means that some special people and charitable organizations you’ve loved through the years will be left out.

An information packet on how to get started is available by contacting Catholic Charities. Email Alison Poetsch at apoetsch@CatholicCharitiesSCC.org or call (408) 325-5288. When you are ready to finalize your plans, please consult a legal advisor regarding your estate and charitable gifts. This article is meant to provide an introductory overview and should not be considered definitive tax or legal advice.