Planned giving to the Catholic Church is relatively rare in comparison to the common practice in Protestant churches. I well remember when I was an attorney advising clients about their estates and drawing wills for them that Protestants regularly made bequests to their churches. Those Catholics who did make bequests to their parishes more often than not would give a direction that the bequest should be used for Masses to be said for the repose of their souls. Little did they realize that no part of such a bequest would go to the church, which was the intended object of their bounty, but rather would go as stipends to the priests who presided at the Masses.
I have made a planned gift to the church. Apart from the tax advantages such a gift presents, it is my way of expressing gratitude for what the church has meant to me.
Many people, when asked, say they would like to consider making a special planned gift to their parish, school or favorite diocesan ministry. While the idea may have a strong appeal, they often wonder how they should proceed and when would be an appropriate time to act. As the new year begins and another tax season approaches, this may be the appropriate time to consider such a gift.
What, you may ask, is the concept of planned giving? It is a confusing term and often misunderstood. Planned giving simply describes a donor’s commitment to transfer capital assets to a qualified religious, educational or charitable organization. Most of the time, a planned gift is made by means of a formal agreement or contract. Planned gifts are normally made from the donor’s accumulated wealth as part of an overall estate plan, and it frequently results in tax advantages to the donor.
Here are some practical aspects of planned giving, as well as some suggested steps that can be taken. As we begin the new year of 2006, I do invite you to consider a planned gift.
* Have you made a will? Every adult should have one. If you do have a will, it should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it meets all present needs. If your spouse or other heirs have died, you should have your plans reviewed by an experienced professional to determine the impact of these changes. Such a professional can also provide advice on the constantly changing federal and state laws that govern wills and estates.
* Have you made other plans to manage and distribute your property?
* Have you moved from another state?
* As you work your way through these family and financial matters, remember that there are planned-giving opportunities that could benefit you, while at the same time give a benefit to others whom you may wish to favor. The most common vehicle is a bequest in a will, in which you decide to remember the church by setting aside a stated amount, a specific asset or a percentage of your estate. The terms of the gift can be changed at any time by an amendment to your will. Your estate may benefit significantly from the charitable deduction. Bear in mind, furthermore, that making a gift in your will demonstrates a profound sense of caring and a spirit of generosity. It also encourages a family tradition of giving that continues to future generations.
* Think of the opportunities a planned gift provides for memorializing a loved one.
* Donations may be made to the church for general purposes, or they may be designated to specific projects or programs. Please consider the future needs of your parish, Catholic school or a special ministry of the church. Your actions now will make a difference. Do think of giving this your prayerful consideration.
For additional information, contact the diocesan Stewardship, Development and Communications Office at 585/328-3228, ext. 1297.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Father Alexander Bradshaw is pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Greece. The information he discusses is not intended as legal advice, and independent counsel is highly recommended.