Estate Planning

In my job with the archdiocese of Toronto, I meet a lot of people and have a lot of conversations. Some are more interesting than others. Below is one with a man I’ll call Gunter that I’ll not soon forget.

Keep your assets in your loved one’s hands

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TORONTO - Having a financial plan in place before you die will help keep the tax man’s hands off your assets.

Donating stocks to the Church, charity a ‘win-win proposition’

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If you’re used to buying low and selling high, donating stocks to the Church might be an option to consider.

Life insurance gifting is one way to help your Church

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At 40 years old, Justin Mullin started making contributions towards the gift he’ll leave behind to the Church.

Gift annuities can make your money go further

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A recent study commissioned by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries confirmed the findings of numerous other reports: people are living longer.

Investment plan essential as we live longer

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Updated 11/14/13

As the number of seniors staying in the work force increases for a variety of reasons — from living longer to the sheer number of baby boomers reaching retirement — it’s become more important than ever to have a solid investment plan. Without one, you could be forced to work well into your retirement years.

Estate planning: Are your affairs in order?

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Estate planning is a broad term that encompasses more than just one’s “estate.” It involves the arrangement of a person’s affairs to ensure that, on incapacity or death, all financial and other affairs have been arranged to ensure their wishes are followed, including:

Honour what they lived for not what they died of

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Many of us do not think of the Church when it comes time to choose an in-lieu-of-flowers designation. Research shows that when we make an in-lieu-of-flowers selection for a loved one who has passed away, we usually select charities associated with their death. In other words, we make our decision based on what our loved one died of, and not what they lived for.

Of course none of us diminish the need for the important work being done at research foundations for diseases and of other charities. A lot of good progress is being made. We may simply wish to consider the Catholic Church as our in-lieu-of-flowers option and have the opportunity to recognize the importance of faith in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. An in-lieu-of-flowers mention in an obituary presents a wonderful opportunity for us to tell our family and friends that the Church is important to us.

One such example is Sir Louis H. Parsons who is remembered by his children as a hardworking man who was kind, generous, ethical and trustworthy. His family says that the greatest lesson they learned from him was that “Everything in life worthwhile requires sacrifice.”

At the time of his passing, his children directed the in-lieu-of-flowers donations to honour him by establishing The Sir Louis H. Parsons Memorial Scholarship Fund at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Choir School. The purpose was to help ensure that his love of the Choir School and community would remain in perpetuity. Donations collected were designated to the scholarship fund given every year to a student who exemplifies leadership and the qualities of humility and service to others. This fund has created a legacy for Sir Louis H. Parsons that will live on for many generations.

Creating your own in-lieu-of-flowers legacy is easy and can be directed toward your parish or favourite religious charity. It may not fund a parish renovation or solve the needs of the poor, but having the choice of supporting the Church in a big or small way indicates that the Church is a fundamental part of our lives.

And we place our trust in Jesus to do the rest.

If you would like to choose your parish or favourite Catholic charity as your in-lieu-of-flowers designation consider sharing your decision with your family. This will help to ensure that your wish is fulfilled. You can also write down your intention and keep it with your Will.

(Foronda works with the Development Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

Spreading generosity changes everyone

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“My father is waiting for me, I have to go home,” said Victoria, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

She was participating in a senior’s bingo game in Scarborough and talking with a 12-year-old boy with autism named Joseph.

Joseph, accompanied by his Uncle Sam, had been volunteering at the bingo game every Wednesday for the past three years. Over that time he’d forged a special relationship with Victoria.

“Victoria loves Joseph,” said Sam. “She gets really upset if Joseph is not here and does not want to play bingo. I think it’s because her father’s name was Joseph.”

Sam, a manager of a grocery store, knows the importance of volunteering and is determined to teach Joseph that you don’t have to be paid for everything you do. Managing his staff has taught Sam that a generous person is a far better employee than a greedy one. So he believes that teaching generosity to Joseph will help the boy in his life and future career.

Learning the importance of giving back, Sam believes, can change someone’s outlook on life. He learned that lesson from a Grade 11 teacher.

“My teacher said that whoever went on a weekend retreat on the importance of volunteering would get an A in her class,” he recalls. “I liked the idea of getting an A, so I went. It had a huge impact on me and made a real difference in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but only being 15, I was young and impressionable. It made me a better Catholic.”

One way that Sam gives back today is through a life insurance policy from the Knights of Columbus that names ShareLife as the beneficiary. A gift of insurance can be a wonderful way to create a legacy for your parish or favourite charity. Here are three simple ways you can make a gift of insurance:

o You can purchase a new policy and name the Church as the owner and beneficiary of the policy. This entitles you to receive a tax receipt for the annual premiums.

o Alternatively, you can be listed as the owner of the policy and name the Church as the beneficiary. This method lets your estate receive the tax receipt at the time of death,

o Finally, you can gift a policy you already own, naming the Church as the owner and beneficiary, and receive an immediate tax receipt for the fair value of your policy. You then continue to pay the premiums and get a tax receipt.

It’s never too early to plan your final arrangements

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TORONTO - George Ribeiro knows where he’s going, and that’s a load off his mind. By pre-planning his cemetery arrangements, the 62- year-old businessman has secured a plot in Assumption Cemetery in Mississauga.

Ribeiro was nudged in the direction of making his own funeral and cemetery arrangements when his father-in-law died this year.

“When he passed away, me and my wife had to organize the funeral — and not just the funeral but also the cemetery part. In one day we had to do basically everything,” Ribeiro said.

That’s not a stress Ribeiro would wish on his own adult children. From memorial stone to casket to location, all those decisions have been made. When the time comes the Ribeiro family will concentrate on prayer, grief and hope rather than payments and trying to guess their parents’ wishes.

“We tend to be afraid of dealing with the funeral part of our lives,” Ribeiro said. “When we do it, if we don’t have big pressures it’s much better than a last-minute situation that we have to solve.”

Ribeiro believes that by pre-planning, his family will end up spending less.

“If you don’t organize it before, what happens is that normally you spend even more money,” he said.

Nobody wants to do less than the utmost for their own parents, and that can lead to poor decisions and costly extras, said Ribeiro.

Dealing with Catholic Cemeteries — Archdiocese of Toronto family counsellor Rosa Felgas, Ribeiro found the process surprisingly easy.

“I think it was a very nice experience,” he said.

Family counsellors can help work out a budget, arrange for interest-free monthly payments, secure a reserved burial plot and assure co-ordination between the funeral home, parish and cemetery. Family councillors will also make home visits for people unable to get to Catholic Cemeteries’ offices. Group presentations are also available.

As a Portuguese immigrant, Ribeiro saw the planning process as normal. His grandparents in Portugal secured a family plot many years ago.

“Back home, it’s the way it is. You know you have to prepare.”

At 62 Ribeiro could well live another 25 years or more, but he doesn’t think he moved too soon to secure his burial plot.

“If I go today or tomorrow or 20 years from now, it doesn’t matter. I know where I will go,” he said. “You never know when is going to be your time and how it’s going to be. There should be a way of talking to people. I think we should normally do it earlier.”

Preparing your funeral in advance takes burden off of your loved ones

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When facing death there is a lot a family must manage: grieving, estate finances and, often overlooked, the funeral service arrangements.

“Pre-planning is one of the most thoughtful gifts that you can give to your family,” said Amy Profenna, spokesperson for Catholic Cemeteries — Archdiocese of Toronto. “When arrangements are made in advance of need, it allows one to focus on the important things at a time of death.”

While pre-planning is preferred by Profenna, she understands that health issues and sudden deaths — as well as people not accepting that their time is near — often leave the task to those close to the deceased. This reality is what prompted the Catholic Cemeteries’ team to publish Life is Changed, Not Ended: Planning and Preparing a Catholic Funeral in 2008.

“We worked with Novalis to customize this booklet which was created to help family and friends prepare a Catholic funeral,” said Profenna. “It contains all the readings for the funeral Mass from which the reader can choose, and offers all the themes for the vigil celebrations.”

The booklet opens by addressing a variety of common questions surrounding children’s role in the Mass, prayers for victims of suicide and, one of the most popular misconceptions, preparing the eulogy.

“Although the Catholic funeral Mass is an opportunity to remember the person who has died, it is a celebration of the saving mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection,” reads the booklet. “That is why a eulogy, which is a speech praising someone who has died, is not part of a Catholic funeral. It is important in the grieving process, however, for people to share memories.”

It recommends doing so at the wake, the vigil for the deceased or in private with close friends and family. Additionally the booklet explains, using similar reasoning, “why secular readings and songs don’t belong in a Catholic celebration — not even a favourite poem or song.”

Knowing all of this in advance can help reduce tension when sitting down to plan a funeral.

“Plan to take time to sit down with the parish priest or a member of the pastoral staff to discuss the details of the rites,” reads the booklet. “Share information freely and discuss any special wishes you may have.”

Profenna admits that spending a couple hours talking about your own funeral service, or that of a recently deceased loved one, can feel morbid, depressing and even terrifying, but the end result is almost always worth the discomfort.

“After people have made their arrangements the feeling is generally the same, the feeling of satisfaction, like a weight is lifted and the feeling that they are glad they did it,” said Profenna. “The most important part is that peace of mind people feel after making their arrangements.”