As Christian stewards, we are entrusted to use the gifts we are given wisely for the greater good of our family, our faith community and God’s kingdom. We all want to make a difference in the lives of our families, friends and in our communities. During national Include a Charity Week, we are invited to consider the legacy we will leave beyond our lifetime.
Creating a Will is a gift given in love, faith, hope and charity to the future. It enables you to share your blessings and Christian values; and support your family, loved ones, and causes close to your heart.
Why every Christian should have a Will
A Will sets your affairs and estate in order, stewarding them with care during your time on earth and into the future. Writing a will and reviewing it when circumstances change provides security, peace of mind, and ensures your intentions to support the people and causes you care for are fulfilled.
A Will is a legal document that clearly details your wishes regarding the beneficiaries of your estate, and who will be responsible for administering it, as your executors and trustees. If you die without a valid will (known legally as ‘dying intestate’), the rules under the Succession Act 2006 (NSW) determine how your assets will be distributed, according to a set formula. Certain family members will receive a defined percentage of your assets, despite what you may have wished. If there is no next of kin, your estate will automatically pass to the government.
Intestacy may also occur where:
- The Will has been poorly drafted and the legal rules of construction have not been followed.
- The Will is not valid because it has not been signed and witnessed according to the law.
- The Will fails to properly dispose of all assets.
Seek wise Counsel
Your Will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign. It’s advisable that you have it prepared by an expert who is supported by accountants, taxation, investment and legal professionals. The Law Society of NSW and the NSW Trustee and Guardian can assist.
Writing a Will yourself may seem an easier and more cost-effective option, but there are risks in DIY kits and online Wills that can leave out important considerations, such as what will happen if a beneficiary should die prior to you. A Will must conform to strict legal requirements otherwise the Courts may decide it is not valid.
Expressing your intentions
The stewardship of an effective estate plan requires more than preparing a valid Will and it is important to consider all aspects of your life, financial and personal circumstances. Some key considerations include:
- Detailing your assets – property, investments, bank accounts and superannuation.
- Who will your beneficiaries be? After first providing for your family and loved ones, will you consider a gift to your family in Christ – your parish or a Catholic ministry?
- Appointing Guardians to care for and raise your children if both parents unexpectedly die.
- Appointing a trusted family member or friend as Power of Attorney to manage your legal and financial affairs should you be unable to do so yourself.
- Appointing an Enduring Guardian to make lifestyle, health and medical decisions on your behalf if you lack capacity to make those decisions.
- Advance care directives recording your wishes or instructions for any future medical intervention and treatment.
- Details of your funeral arrangements.
- Appointing an Executor to manage your estate within the terms of your Will and to protect the assets of your estate.
- The establishment of trusts in your Will including family discretionary trusts which focus on tax minimisation and asset protection for beneficiaries; trusts for children, trusts for adults unable to manage their finances, special disability trusts, life interest or right of residence trusts; and charitable trusts.
- Appointing a Trustee to look after gifts in your Will to family and friends for a specific time stated in a Will – for example a trust for your children or grandchildren.
- Discussing your intentions with your family and loved ones, so they understand why your wishes are so important to you.
- Safely storing your Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship documents and advising your Executor of their location for easy access when they’re needed.
By engaging an experienced solicitor or public trustee to write your Will, you can be confident that your Will is legally correct, reflects your wishes, and that your estate will be managed professionally and, in a manner, meaningful to you.
What will be your legacy of Faith, Hope and Charity?
Giving a gift in your Will is one of the most significant acts of generosity that anyone can make. After providing for your family and loved ones, will you consider a gift to the Catholic Church?
A gift in Will to your parish and faith community is a very special way to ensure that the ministry of the Church that has nurtured your faith and spiritual wellbeing throughout your life endures.
There are many ways a gift in your Will can make a meaningful contribution to the Church’s mission.
You can give a gift in your Will through your estate as a whole or a share; as a specific amount or asset; as a contingent bequest if a nominated beneficiary is unable to receive their gift in Will; or as a living bequest, given in your lifetime, allowing you to enjoy first-hand the significant impact of your generosity. You may wish to memorialise a loved one or honour your family name with an endowment that perpetually supports a ministry that you are passionate about.
A gift to your parish or one of the vital ministries of the Diocese of Parramatta will help share Christ’s transforming message of love and hope with all – especially the most marginalised, in need, and vulnerable. Our ministries – including Holy Spirit Seminary, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Clergy Support Foundation, the Ephpheta Centre and CatholicCare Social Services – support almost every area of humanitarian and spiritual need. Even the most modest gift will have a significant impact in furthering the Church’s works of faith, hope and charity and ensure your Christian values live on for many generations.
If you choose to leave a gift in your Will to your faith community, Parramatta Catholic Foundation can provide you or your legal representative with the appropriate wording in line with your wishes.
The content in this article is general information and does not constitute legal, financial or accounting advice. Expert legal and financial advice regarding your Will and estate should be sought from qualified professionals.