Principle #6: What are You Waiting For?

Principle #6: What are You Waiting For?

The Sound Stewardship Principles are at the heart of how we serve. Over the past few months, we’ve been taking a closer look at each of these time-tested guidelines for long-term financial success.

Did you know less than half of Americans have an estate plan in place? According to a 2017 study, only 42 percent of U.S. adults have completed a will or a living trust

Some of my clients joke that they don’t care about estate planning because they won’t be around to see its results. We remind them that our sixth Sound Stewardship Principle is “Think beyond yourself.” What will happen to the relationships and  resources you’ve been shepherding after you’re gone? Thinking about the legacy you want to leave now prevents future heartache and unmet expectations. It also gives you an opportunity to prepare the next generation of stewards.  

Inheritance without relationship isn’t a legacy

Death is the great equalizer: You will pass away, and you can’t take anything with you. What you can control is what you leave behind. What do you think God wants you to do with the resources you’ve been given?

Proverbs 13:22 teaches, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” (NIV).

This “inheritance” includes, but isn’t limited to money. An inheritance without a relationship isn’t a true legacy—it’s just stuff. In fact, leaving a large financial sum to someone you don’t have a solid relationship with can actually cause more harm than good.

The very first step in estate planning is focusing on relationships. Share your life first; financial gifts flow from meaningful connections.

Thinking beyond yourself takes time

…and demands a multi-faceted approach with the help of an attorney and your advisors. A comprehensive estate plan includes:

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Powers of attorney for both financial and health-care decisions
  • Advanced health-care directives, sometimes called “living wills”
  • Guardianship for dependents
    • If you have children, guardianship provisions are essential. Don’t wait to put these documents in place!
  • A plan for your digital assets
    • As technology evolves, so does our ability to control what happens to our content after we pass on. Some tech companies already provide solutions, such as Google’s Inactive Account Manager and Facebook’s Legacy Contact, but this constantly changing field deserves your attention.

Tips for getting started

  • Ask the big questions: In a perfect world, with the resources you have right now, what would happen after you pass away? How would your wealth be shared? What would you want your heirs to know?
  • Start the conversation: Your financial advisor may bring up the topic if triggered by a change in tax law or in your family’s life. But you don’t have to wait to begin discussing the legacy you want to leave.
  • Prepare the next stewards: The best time to prepare your heirs is while they are still under your roof. If you have children under 18, teach them about generosity and financial wisdom. For older children and grandchildren, you can set a powerful example by the way you both use and communicate about money.
  • Try pre-inheritance experiences. If you have excess resources now and the right motivations, why wait to give? Our clients get a lot of satisfaction from freely sharing their abundance with no strings attached. Some take families on big trips, help pay off loans, or invest in their heirs’ futures through education funding or down payments on homes. Some like to give cash gifts at Christmas. There are as many ways to give as there are givers.
  • Account for differences: Everyone has a unique estate plan. People without children have a wide range of options for how they want to bless others and organizations after they are gone. And people with children and/or grandchildren should have the freedom to give to heirs differently, depending on personality, need and previous pre-inheritance giving. As a wise advisor once told me, “love them equally, but treat them uniquely.”
  • Incorporate charitable giving: Don’t forget about the causes you currently support. As Jonathan Harrison says, consider adding a “child called charity” to your estate plan.  

These are big questions, big concepts and big steps to take. You don’t have to go at it alone! We want you to have peace of mind about the legacy you’re leaving. Reach out if you’re ready to start the think-beyond-yourself conversation.

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