It’s tragic to hear about the passing of someone you love; here’s the pronouncement that amplifies the loss: “He/she died intestate.”
You might be not be able to beat death – at least, the kind of death whose cause is not needless risk or undisciplined behavior – but you have absolute control over being intestate.
There’s no medication for that condition: the term describes someone who, in their passing, was disclosed to be unprepared. Intestate: a person who dies without having formalized a will.
Legacy is an emotionally-charged idea; estate planning is a cognitive assignment that few people undertake. It’s estimated that nearly 70% of American adults have no formalized plan for the hand-off to their next generation; without that, the government assumes that role. Is it important?
“A legacy is one of the best gifts we can give to those we love. If you die without your affairs in order, you put your loved ones in a time-consuming, expensive, stressful process while they are already in mourning. It is an additional burden that they have to worry about. Without a clear estate plan in place, assets get sent to probate and a court decides how to divide them up. So not only does it take a long time to be sorted out, but your loved ones won’t know what you really hoped to do with those assets. Planning ahead will protect your loved ones from this additional stress.” (Forbes Magazine).
In practical terms, many Americans need not worry: their approach to life is to spend everything they make, living paycheck-to-paycheck. Without credible retirement planning, their home equity is the last resort – tapped using a reverse mortgage – and their “heirs” will pick through the garage to find their “inheritance.” Let me challenge the confusion with a timeless insight: estate planning begins the moment you accept the role of a grownup, in God’s great plan for His Creation.
Here is His plan for your life, in a paragraph: 1) Become an adult. 2) Find and marry a spouse, with a till-death horizon on the relationship. 3) Have children, and raise them – from birth – to follow your example, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me quote the Boss: “Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. The man who hates and divorces his wife does violence to the one he should protect” (Malachi 2).
Grow up. Get married. Be faithful. Stay married. Have kids. Raise them to be godly. Repeat.
The modern culture has declared rebellion against God’s always-binding declaration of intent for His Creation. The alternative: don’t get married; instead, hook up at leisure, or take the great leap and live together. Agree on an open relationship that allows everyone to venture out. Abort the accidental pregnancies. If kids come along, don’t try to impose your beliefs on them (leave that for the teachers in godless schools). Celebrate their ascension into single adulthood … (repeat).
Legacy/Estate Planning is not something you do when it appears that you’ll die with assets; it starts when you decide Who has the right to order the steps of your earthly life experience. Will God lay out the strategy for your time this side of Heaven, or will the culture?
Joshua challenged the Jews – as they settled-in to the Promised Land – to make that decision wisely: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24).
Go along with the culture… or follow God’s alternative. This is the first of three installments on this theme. Estate Planning 101: if you don’t pass along your faith, nothing else matters…