Walter Herring

You've got to feel a little sorry for Faith Parrish. Even though things are generally going rather well, it's a time of stress. She's in pretty good health, has a reasonable income and has some great friends. The obvious problem is the house she occupies.

She inherited it from her parents, and it's really too large for her now. It needs a lot of repairs, too. The roof is leaking again and has to be replaced, the spaces don't really meet her needs, and it seems just too big. Painting is urgently needed, the carpets are wearing out and the windows let cold air in.

There was a time when it was just right for the large family from which she came, but the cost of heating, electricity and insurance was substantially lower in the old days. Faith wonders how long she can justify occupying such a big building all by herself.

She has some hard choices to make. Would it be best just to repair the roof and continue struggling to pay the cost of upkeep? Change is always hard, and the thought of downsizing in some way is not comfortable.

There is pressure from other family members, too, who keep asking her the hard questions. "What are you going to be doing five years from now? Will you really need a big space, or would you be better off with something smaller? Do you know what your property is worth? Couldn't it be put to better use? Have you got a long-range plan for your life?"

To be honest, she doesn't - not yet, anyway. But the more the family eggs her on, the more she recognizes that she can't do everything the way it used to be done. To renovate the big house, for example, so that somebody else could share it with her, is an attractive idea, but then she would have to spend a lot of money to try and bring it up to current building standards.

Plumbing, heating, wiring and even structural strength would all be open to question. It certainly isn't earthquake-resistant!

The interesting part of her situation is that anything is possible. There are probably other options to consider that she hasn't even thought of yet. Best of all, she really does have a choice. There's no mortgage, she's covering her expenses - more easily in some years than in others - and her family, though keen to see her deal with life more aggressively than she usually does, is really quite sympathetic.

She is in a better position than her brother, who let his condominium's condition deteriorate. She's better off than her cousin, whose income has dropped drastically. And she's had lots of help from her friends to keep the house livable, even if the roof is far too big a project for the do-it-yourselfers.

So what should she do? Your advice would be welcome.

Walter Herring is on Diocesan Council as chair of the Planned Giving Committee.