Written By Cameo C. Anders JD, MA
In my work in estate planning and end-of-life care, the most difficult scenarios to work through have been the ones without a plan. So, when I say that planning your legacy is a beautiful gift to give to your loved ones, I say this with confidence and from experience. I don’t mean to dismiss the daunting-ness of the task though, which is why I would like to set forth a 3 step process which we at the Catholic Community Foundation can help you step through:
Step 1: Identify an Agent to make medical and financial decisions in the event you lose the capacity to do so yourself. Inform and educate this person on the Catholic values that guide the decisions s/he should make on your behalf. One of the most difficult parts of this step is to identify the right document to use for healthcare decisions and to ensure that the document gives guidance consistent with Catholic teaching. With the expertise at the Catholic Community Foundation, the collaboration of Catholic professionals, and the numerous Catholic teachings in this area, we are able to bring you a sample healthcare power of attorney which guides your agent (and the medical professionals involved in your care) to make decisions according to sound Catholic values.
There are other terms you will hear regarding healthcare decision-making documents: living wills, advance directives, durable power of attorney, etc. In South Dakota, an advance directive is a general category referring to a document in which you give direction regarding your healthcare in advance (hence advance directive). The two main types are a Living Will and a durable Power of Attorney (‘durable’ means it can be used during incapacity). A Living Will is only implemented at the end of life when death is imminent and the patient has been diagnosed with a terminal condition. It does not appoint an agent to be the ‘decision-maker.’ A power of attorney is a more useful advance directive because it appoints a decision-maker to act on your behalf and it springs into action whenever it is needed, not just at the end of life with a terminal condition. If you look at the below slide, you can see that these documents can be created anytime after 18 years of age up until death (white arrow). You can also see that the Living Will is only useful for a small portion of that time (red arrow) while the power of attorney is useful for the entirety of your lifetime (green arrow) and can spring in and out of action as needed. If you would like a sample Power of Attorney or would like to speak with a Catholic bioethicist/attorney on how to implement Catholic values into your advance directives, please contact Cameo Anders at email@example.com
Step 2: Leave a Legacy of Generosity. It’s never too early to care for the less fortunate and more vulnerable in our midst; to support the faith of ourselves, family and community, and to inspire those around us to give with a joy that is infectious. Elsewhere in this newsletter, we have identified ways of giving at the end of the year. In particular, this month of December is a great time to take advantage of the 2021 expansion provided for in the Cares Act in which you can receive a tax deduction for up to 100% of your adjusted gross income. This may only last through 2021 (unless extended by Congress) so it’s a great time to take advantage of this tool. In addition, we have gift planning officers ready to meet with you and walk through any questions you might have about other charitable tools that we offer, such as endowments, donor-advised funds, and charitable trusts. Please reach out to us with your questions and let us help you leave a legacy of generosity.
Step 3: Provide for the Passing of your Assets. A well-thought-out plan provides for asset protection and transfer at key times during life and at death regardless of the amount of assets you hold. This can be done in many ways including through a simple will or through a more complex estate plan tailored to your needs. We at the Catholic Community Foundation have worked with many excellent attorneys to ensure that your asset plan and your charitable giving weave together seamlessly. Please reach out to us for a list of attorneys in your area, or to have your attorney work with us to establish a Legacy of generosity imbued with Catholic values.
May God bless you & your loved ones this Advent season and always.