Do You Have a Funeral File?

By December 9, 2013June 3rd, 2021News

By Fred Maglione, CFRE, JD

It’s been nearly two years, since Chi Phi said goodbye to E. Owen Parry, Alpha 1965. Parry spent many years leading the Alpha Alumni Association, Alpha Home Association and working nationally as a Trustee and Vice Chairman of the Chi Phi Educational Trust. He cared deeply about Chi Phi, running the fraternity like a business and providing the flexibility and latitude undergraduates need to learn and mature in a fraternal environment.

Parry died rather quickly from cancer. He passed within eight weeks of his diagnosis. It was sudden, and it upset a lot of people.

At his funeral service in Charlottesville, Virginia, pastor, Dr. Heather Warren, explained how Owen had come to see her just a few days after he received the news from his doctor.

“He walked right into my office with a big file folder tucked under his arm,” she explained. “We discussed his situation, and he pulled out his file. It was his funeral file. He had spent years saving portions of the programs he liked from funerals he attended, clipping his favorite Bible verses and compiling the sheet music from his favorite hymns and operas.”

To those who knew Owen, it’s no surprise that he planned almost every detail of his own funeral.

Owen was an organizer. A doer. He was also an insurance man having spent his entire career working his way up the corporate ladder at Cigna Insurance. He left very little to chance – including his own funeral and his plan for life after he was gone.

What are you leaving to chance? Do you have a funeral file? At the very least, do you have a Last Will and Testament to decide how your assets are distributed after your death?

Each year, nearly 55% of Americans who die have not signed a Will. They let the default rules established by their state legislatures decide who should receive their assets. Very often, federal and state governments receive sizeable distributions as a result of both estate and capital gains taxes.

Very few people like to think about their own death. Even fewer like to plan for it. But a little advance planning can go a long way and provide a lot more money for your heirs.

Consult with an attorney or accountant. Get some advice about how to protect and support the individuals and institutions you value most. Take control of the financial decisions that will be made after your death. Don’t leave it up to the government to make those decisions for you.

As you contemplate these important decisions, keep in mind that leaving some money or property to a charitable institution can have many positive benefits. In some cases, leaving money outright to charity reduces your estate lax liability and can actually provide you with a larger amount to leave to your family and friends. If you leave highly appreciated stock to an individual, they’ll pay significant capital gains taxes when they sell the property. You could leave that money to charity and avoid anyone having to pay the capital gains on it. Better yet, create a charitable trust by giving the property to the charity during your life, avoid the capital gains tax liability, take a tax deduction for the year you contribute the property and setup a recurring income stream for yourself or others.

There are many ways just a little advance planning can pay big dividends for you, your heirs and the institutions that are important to you.

If Chi Phi is one of those important institutions that had a profound and positive impact on your life, we hope you’ll consider remembering Chi Phi or your Chapter in your Last Will and Testament or that you’ll do some advance estate planning now.

After you finalize your Will or other estate planning documents, start making lists of favorite Bible passages, hymns and songs and start your funeral file.

As Owen Parry’s final days illustrated, you never know what’s coming next. A little bit advance planning can go an awful long way.

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If you’d like to discuss, in confidence, the advantages of proper estate planning for you, your heirs or Chi Phi, please contact Director of Development, John Fisher at 404.231.1824 or