The Church as One Additional Child
A Message From Mark Guyol
I’ve gotten to know Archbishop Carlson well in my work with the Roman Catholic Foundation. His vision and leadership make him an excellent shepherd of the faithful, and I’ve been particularly struck by his dedication to Catholic education and social justice.
Among Archbishop Carlson’s many good works, initiatives and spiritual instructions, one suggestion has stuck with me for its power and simplicity. It’s a suggestion the archbishop offered during his time in Sioux Falls and in Saginaw and one I’ve heard him put forth many times in St. Louis. The suggestion gets people thinking differently about how they’ll distribute their assets at the end of their lives.
No matter who you are, upon death, your assets will most likely be split between heirs, the government and charity. But in what proportion? Most people want heirs to get as much as possible, but even with today’s high estate tax exemptions, there are opportunities for the tax man to get a share of your estate. For example, your children may be taxed on their inheritance if it comes in the form of retirement assets. And apart from considerations about heirs and government, what will become of the charities that rely on your support after you are gone? Many generous people don’t think about the importance of providing for their favorite charities in their estate plans, and many excellent charitable organizations may lose support as a result.
With all this in mind, here it is, simple and powerful: Archbishop Carlson asks faithful, charitable Catholics to prayerfully consider treating the Church as one additional child in their estate plans. If a family has four kids, they’ll split their estate as though they have five, with the Church receiving a share equal to the children. Chances are in most families, dividing the estate into one more piece won’t affect the kids much. It might even reduce their tax burden. By gifting retirement assets to the Church and reserving non-taxable assets for your children, you may spare them tax liability. And one thing is certain: treating the Church as an additional child will make a huge impact…on your parish, your grandchildren’s Catholic school, or the Catholic ministry at which you’ve volunteered for years.
Let’s dream for a moment. What if everyone took Archbishop Carlson’s bold suggestion?
There are roughly 155,000 Catholic households in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. According to a 2013 survey by HSBC, a multinational banking and financial services company, 56% of Americans expect to leave inheritance, averaging $177,000, for their children. The average American family has 2.4 children (Pew Research Center). Based on these numbers, if all Catholic households in our archdiocese who plan to leave assets for their children followed the archbishop’s proposal over the coming decades, it could amount to $4.5 billion for the Church, which, if endowed, would put off $203 million in annual distributions!
Okay, maybe that’s dreaming too big. But what if a quarter of Catholic households took the suggestion? That’s $1.1 billion to support the local Church. And if just 10% of those who expect to leave inheritance—around 8,600 families—took the advice, it could mean an additional $20.3 million of support to our Church’s ministries each year…in perpetuity. What a truly incredible difference this could make for our faith community.
My wife, Joan, and I revised our estate plans last fall. Our children, Ellie, Caroline, and Joe, now have a new sibling—an endowment fund at the Roman Catholic Foundation, funded from our estate, which will provide perpetual annual support to our parish, several Catholic schools and other Catholic ministries that are close to our hearts.
Thanks for the inspiration, Archbishop Carlson!
Many of us are blessed to have the opportunity to leave a legacy. To provide for the future of the Church that serves us today. What will your Catholic legacy be?
The Roman Catholic Foundation builds endowed funds that will support Catholic parishes, schools and ministries throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis for generations to come.
Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri
Tax Identification Number: 46-3309222
Roman Catholic Foundation
425 North New Ballas Road
St. Louis, MO 63141