The Ministry of Writing Your Will
For hundreds of years through various editions of the Book of Common Prayer, Episcopalians have been encouraged to make a will, to provide for their families, and to make gifts (bequests) for religious and charitable purposes if possible.
Episcopalians are encouraged to make their funeral plans even before writing a will. This way you can make a statement about your life and can tailor your will to reflect your values. Preparing a will is a loving and responsible act for the sake of your family. Dying intestate (without a will) is difficult for the family at best. Paul’s letter to Timothy reminds us of the simple truth that…
We brought nothing into this world…We can take nothing out of it.” (I Timothy 6:7)
Yet some 50% to 70% of all church members die without a will. If you die without a will, the state will divide your assets among your spouse and children (regardless of their age), appoint an administrator that may cost the estate large fees, and appoint guardians, who may or may not have been your choice, for your minor children. The state makes no charitable contributions, and it will ensure that your estate pays as much tax as possible.
By making a will, you appoint your own Administrator, you name the guardian of your minor children, you control applicable taxes, you can create a family or charitable trust, and you can share your resources with your family, church, or other institutions as you choose.
Here are a few helpful suggestions on how to prepare to write your will, the ultimate exercise in Christian stewardship.
Before Seeing a Legal Advisor…
What should you do before seeing a legal advisor about creating a will? To save time and expense and to ensure that you achieve your goals, take a little time to do the following:
- Make a list of everyone for whom you are responsible.
- List everyone you would like to remember in your will including charities or causes that have been meaningful to you.
- List all of your material assets. This list may be more extensive than you think.
Assets & Approximate Value
|Equity in your home||_____________|
|Real estate & land||_____________|
|Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds||_____________|
|Books and antiques||_____________|
AFTER SUBTRACTING YOUR DEBTS…
Match the names with the assets or consider giving a portion of your total estate to each individual. Take care of your family first.
This is also the time to consider gifts to special friends and to Ascension. Consider establishing a trust if your estate is large enough by consulting with a financial planner, the trust department of a bank, or a representative of the Episcopal Church Foundation. Your Ascension Stewardship Committee can help with confidential legal references for preparing a will and establishing a trust.
If your total assets are substantial, you may be subject to federal estate taxes. In some cases, forming a family and/or charitable trust may help to reduce estate taxes.
Designate a friend or relative as your estate administrator (sometimes called an executor or executrix) and ask if he or she is willing to serve in this capacity.
Consult with the people you would like to have as guardians of your children (where minor children are involved) to be sure they are willing to serve.
Consider talking with one of Ascension’s clergy or the rector to explore the ministries of the church that could best be funded by a gift from your will.
BEQUESTS (GIFTS) TO ASCENSION CAN TAKE SEVERAL FORMS…
- an outright monetary bequest
- a percentage of an estate
- a specific asset, such as an IRA or real estate
- a trust created in a will
- a contingent beneficiary, i.e., the church receives the assets if there are no surviving beneficiaries
A bequest (gift) to the church is deductible from the value of your estate for tax purposes.
AFTER YOU MAKE YOUR WILL…
Make sure that someone knows where your will is located. You might place a copy in a safe deposit box or a secure file at home and leave a copy with your attorney.
Do not place funeral instructions in a safe deposit box. Services will likely be over by the time your administrator checks your bank box.
Leave a copy of your funeral plans and wishes with Ascension’s rector and a member of your family.
Review your will from time to time with your legal advisor. Laws, assets, family, and personal interests often change over time. You probably have not written your last will, only your latest will. Preparing a will is an act of love for your family and friends, a way of easing the pain of loss that follows death. It is also your final legacy.
A will and the gifting options briefly outlined on this site require the involvement of a lawyer specializing in wills and estate document preparation and possibly a financial advisor with fiduciary credentials. Additional information, as well as confidential legal and professional financial referrals can be obtained from your Ascension Stewardship Committee.
Content for this pamphlet was adapted from the Episcopal Church Foundation publications Prepare to Write Your Will and The Ministry of Gift Planning.