What does the Community Foundation for Mississippi, the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind and the Mississippi Office of the Treasurer have in common? Zeita Parker. Yet, several months ago, these links were a mystery.
In December 2022, CFM President and CEO Jane Alexander was scrolling through her inbox when she saw an email from the Office of the Treasurer asking about an unclaimed check. Hearing the few details they had, she immediately called an estate lawyer colleague with a hunch he could connect the dots.
The name rang a bell, and a connection was made to the financial planner involved with Parker’s estate. When Parker was thinking about her end-of-life plans, she knew she wanted to ensure the Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and Blind had additional funds for birthday parties and other special items each year. While her estate planners had discussed her wishes many times, those plans had not made it to the Community Foundation for Mississippi with a letter of intent due to her advancing cancer. These circumstances, paired with CFM’s name change and office move around her passing, made for a perfect storm – one State Treasurer David McRae says his office sees far too often.
“Understandably, estate planning is a conversation none of us want to have, but it’s essential to making sure the people and causes we care about are taken care of when we pass on,” said Treasurer David McRae. “Too often when the conversation is avoided, an individual’s lifetime of savings land in the state’s care, where it becomes our job to find the intended beneficiaries and return the resources. In the case of Zeita Parker, we were able to carry on her legacy as she intended, with a contribution to CFM that will fund special activities at the Mississippi Schools of the Deaf and the Blind. While we are honored to be part of this experience, we encourage everyone hearing this story to make sure they have an up-to-date estate plan, thereby avoiding any uncertainty or delay in delivering your end-of-life gifts to their intended recipients.”
Alexander says the power of completing a letter of intent cannot be overstated. “This lets CFM know your intentions for setting up a fund and how we’ll execute your wishes for the future. They also let us know to be aware when things do happen. Now that we have connected the dots, we’ll finally be able to carry out the Parkers’ legacy for many years to come.”
Fifty-six percent of Americans believe estate planning is essential, but only 33 percent of adults in the U.S. have documented their end-of-life plans. Alexander notes that CFM has several ways to help people plan for their future, from a free Estate Planning Guide to in-person consultations.
With all the pieces of the bequest puzzle together, the Zeita and Wayne Parker Charitable Fund is now open at CFM. Their spring request has already gone to good use, supporting extras for prom and graduation festivities, including two scholarships – just the way the Parkers would have wanted it. Both students – Joshua Mitchell of Mississippi School for the Deaf and Clintarious Shaw of Mississippi School for the Blind – will attend Hinds Community College.
“What an incredible surprise and blessing to find out that such a generous gift was left to our district through the Zeita and Wayne Parker Charitable Fund,” said MSDB Superintendent Jeremy Stinson. “Our residential schools are truly a home away from home, and it was Mrs. Parker’s desire to support our students for all of the ‘extras’ they miss from home, such as prom dresses and birthday parties. This is just one of many ways the Parkers have supported MSDB through the years, and we are so very thankful.”