HENRIETTA — Local attorney Anthony Lee said he didn’t even realize he would be speaking inside a mausoleum as he gave a free talk about death, wills and legal implications in New York state.
But what better setting to drive home the point that immortality is not an option, Lee remarked following a July 15 talk at Ascension Garden, a cemetery in Henrietta. Lee urged those attending to ensure they had an updated will, power of attorney and health-care proxy so that they or their relatives do not wind up struggling with difficult decisions during trying times of transition.
"I think people are oftentimes reluctant to consider their mortality, and therefore they procrastinate," he said.
Lee, an attorney with Harter, Secrest and Emery in Rochester, spoke as part of the seminar series Roman Catholic Theology and Ritual Practices: Death, Funeral, Liturgy, Burial and Remembrance. The series is cosponsored by St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, and Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Ascension Garden.
Upcoming talks are Prayer Beyond the Funeral with Cathy Kamp, pastoral associate at St. Joseph in Penfield, at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at St. Bernard’s, 120 French Road, Pittsford; a panel discussion of Planning a Catholic Funeral at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at St. Bernard’s; a talk on Purgatory and Afterlife with St. Bernard’s professor Father George Heyman at 2 p.m. Nov. 5 at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at St. Bernard’s. Finally, a Mass of Remembrance will take place at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 15 at Ascension Garden, 1900 Pinnacle Road, Henrietta.
Christina Schmidt, director of admissions and financial aid for St. Bernard’s, said the seminar series evolved out of collaboration between the school and Holy Sepulchre’s marketing consultant, Greg Kamp.
"While (death is) not always a fun topic, it is important information for people to be aware of," Schmidt said.
Lee noted that even though people who do not have assets, such as bank or brokerage accounts, real estate, life insurance policies, retirement accounts or personal property, should still have their wishes recorded for a power of attorney or health-care proxy. Parents also should have a plan for what would happen to their minor children in the event of the parents’ deaths.
"From my perspective, and based on my experience, everybody who is an adult should consider estate planning, because you never know," Lee said.
He said it’s particularly important for young people to create an estate plan so that their wishes are documented and followed.
State law, for instance, may split an estate among a surviving spouse and children if a person dies without a will, rather than leaving an estate entirely to a spouse, Lee said. Wills also name an executor of an estate; without that, the Surrogate’s Court prioritizes who might be appointed administrator. Additionally, wills designate what will happen to minor children in the event of the death of their parents.
Estate planning also can be useful to minimize estate taxes and to help designate charitable giving, Lee noted. Estate plans should be reviewed and updated upon marriages, divorce, the birth of a child, serious illness, disability, a change in the law, a change in assets or the appointment of fiduciaries. In general, people should update their plan every three to five years, he said.
Lastly, people need to discuss plans they have made with the decision-makers they have designated in their lives, he said.
Dick and Mary Knapp, parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Rush, which is part of Marianne Cope Parish, attended the talk and said they felt reassured by the planning they had already done.
"Our whole purpose in doing any type of planning is what would benefit our church," Dick Knapp said.
Barb Swiecki, pastoral administrator of St. Marianne Cope Parish, said the parish publicized the series through its bulletin. She was there with questions of her own, as she talks to her aging parents about their plans for the future.
"It tends to be very confusing and this (series of talks) helps people to get this (estate planning)," Swiecki said. "There are so many decisions that have to be made."