Time to Speak — Plan your legacy with a will

Dr. Alfred Nobel is perhaps best remembered for establishing the Nobel Prize. However, have you ever wondered what prompted him to establish this international legacy?

According to the story, one of Dr. Nobel’s brothers died while in France. A French newspaper printed an obituary that incorrectly identified the deceased person as Dr. Alfred Nobel. The obituary allegedly included the line, “The merchant of death is dead.” The obituary went on to say that Dr. Nobel became rich by inventing ways to kill more people faster through his invention of dynamite and other explosives.

Troubled by the obituary, Dr. Nobel would decide to leave more than 90% of his estate to establish the Nobel prizes.

Have you ever wondered how you will be remembered?

Making a will is not only good stewardship but one place where you can begin to establish your legacy. A will or estate plan is an important way to extend your love, care, generosity and gratitude to family and the charitable causes you believe in. Including a bequest in your will to individual beneficiaries and your parish may be the best way for you to make a meaningful gift for the future.

Only you know your circumstances and your personal giving intentions. If you die without a will, your estate will be divided according to the laws of the state where you live. The resulting transfer of assets may be very different from what you had wished. While certain family members will likely receive a part of your estate, other family members, close friends or charities that you may have wanted to remember with a gift will not be included.

There are many reasons why people put off making a will. Some people believe their estate is too small to justify a will. Others assume that a surviving spouse will automatically get everything if they die without a will. Some believe that family members will take responsibility for the estate and carry out one’s personal wishes — of course, this assumes that the survivors know the deceased person’s wishes.

Still others may not want to think about the fact that they will die someday.

The most difficult part of writing a will can be just getting started. People often wait until they get married, have children, buy property or retire to create a will. While these are all excellent times to revisit your existing document and make any adjustments, it is never too soon for an adult to prepare a will. All life circumstances will benefit from a succinctly prepared will or other estate plans.

Here in our Archdiocese of Louisville, there is a rich tradition of people remembering the Church in their wills. This practice dates back to our earliest days when we were still a frontier church. Items included in bequests have ranged from cash to land and personal items of value. The reasons that donors make these charitable bequests are as varied as the donors themselves. However, there seems to be at least two common motivations — a deep sense of stewardship and the virtue of gratitude. For many, it is a desire to share a portion of their blessings to continue the work that Christ entrusted to his Church. For others, it is a desire to give back out of gratitude for that which the Church has provided them.

Remembering your parish or an archdiocesan ministry in a newly created or existing will can be as simple as inserting a few sentences. It should be noted that there are also a number of creative ways available to make a bequest. The most common form of bequest is a specific amount of money or an asset. One can also make a bequest of the remainder (or a percentage of the remainder) of the estate after all family bequests and obligations have been satisfied. Since the laws governing wills vary from state-to-state, it is recommended that you always consult with an attorney when preparing or amending a will.

As the director of planned giving for the Office of Stewardship and Development, I am available to provide you or your legal counsel with any information that you may need if you are considering including your parish or an archdiocesan ministry as part of your planned giving legacy. I can be reached by phone at 585-3291, ext 1128 or by email at ezuber@archlou.org.

While we may create a will out of obligation and good stewardship, it also provides an opportunity to establish our legacy. By making a will and executing other estate planning documents, we ensure that our family is taken care of after we are gone. By making a bequest or other special gifts to our parish, we ensure those ministries and activities we supported with our time, talent and treasure during our life will continue to flourish for many generations.

Erin Zuber
Zuber is director of planned giving for the archdiocese Office of Stewardship and Development.

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