Don’t let the courts divide your estate

By Travis Pearson
Experts say we will soon “drive” self-driving cars that can take us where we want to go while allowing us to sit back and sleep, play chess, read, or do anything else that helps us relax.
While that may be the future, most people are not ready to turn over control and trust self-driving cars. Can a self-driving car get you where you want to go? Will it stay on the road? How will it handle something unexpected? What will it do when it comes across the first of many red light runners in Wichita? How will it handle crossing I-70 in January in a snowstorm?
When it comes to our future and the safety and care of loved ones, many of us would not lightly relinquish control to a car that was on autopilot. What if it did not work as we would want it to work?
Yet, when it comes to our finances, healthcare, and our estate plan, many of us have freely chosen to give up control to a system that is random and ill-equipped to make the kind of decisions we can best make ourselves. Under state law, if you are incapacitated or pass away without a plan, someone else – usually a judge you’ve never met, in a courtroom you’ve never visited – will make important decisions that could affect you and your loved ones.
If you die without a will or a trust, a court will determine how your assets are distributed and that likely will happen in a way that does not reflect your wishes. For example, you may have a special needs child, or particular family circumstances you want to positively impact after you’re gone.
In addition, without a plan, that judge will neither know, nor be able to effectuate any of your legacy stewardship desires you may have for your parish or other diocesan ministry. Without a plan, none of these will happen.
Don’t leave your legacy to chance. It’s easier than you might think to write a will, trust, or both and provide for the people and ministries that mean the most to you. We can help you gather the information necessary to create your plan and are available to answer any questions you may have.
Pearson is planned giving coordinator for the diocesan Office of Development and Planned Giving.