Mid-summer; vacations – such as they are in a no-fly zone, with CV-19 isolation – calling for lighter issues and an escape from the macabre realities swirling in the incessant headlines. Start the week with some light reading, Bob. “Estate Planning?” What was I thinking?
The markets have rebounded; savings rates have climbed. People are cleaning out closets and repainting the guest room; Marie Kondo – the Organizing Consultant from Tokyo – has her own Netflix series as she helps bored shut-ins rearrange their clutter. Why not use some time to ensure your legacy?
In the last two installments, I gave you the first two of three critical steps. First transfer the Invaluable. The greatest thing you have in life is your saving – and, living – faith in Jesus Christ. Until you pass that to your children – to ensure that they will follow you, then follow Jesus – nothing else matters. Until that happens, you have no legacy of note; “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4).
The next milestone is to transfer the Values. What are the beliefs that come from your redeemed worldview that are central to driving your thoughts and actions? To operate inconclusively – assuming that “they’ll figure it out on their own” is like dying without a will, and allowing the probate courts to play moderator in sifting through your life’s left-behinds. You want to exercise intentionality in what you leave with your Gen 2 and Gen 3 progeny; that affects the intangibles before the tangibles.
I gave you a copy of my homework last week. Cheri and I have distilled our essential cluster of defining convictions; the Top Three: 1) the Perspective of Eternity; 2) the Priority of Calling; 3) the Practice of Stewardship. Certainly, there are more values in evidence around our table, but those are the Shank family’s version of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Once you’ve been successful in seeing your faith and your core, driving beliefs reestablished in your family downline, it’s finally time to talk about the Valuables. Too often, Estate Planning begins there; if that’s the approach you’ll take, you lose.
Read to the bottom for the book recommendation that will score the winning touchdown on this subject, but let me put it in brief: what you have isn’t yours in the first place. Whatever you have has been entrusted to you by God, and He has put it in your hands for His purposes to be served. If you’re the real-deal in following Jesus, you know and accept that. That is a driving distinction during your lifetime, and – then – in your deathtime.
Paul knew that: “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:2-4). What happens to whatever you leave behind is crucial; you are a Trustee of God’s resources.
Your decisions regarding your net worth mirror the delegation practiced by the master in Jesus’ story: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey… After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 25:14-15, 19).
Whatever you have and control has been given to you by your Master to accomplish His purposes. How much did He entrust to you? “… each according to his ability.” That’s how you got it; that’s how you should pass it. Conventional Estate Planning: each kid gets an equal split. Immature Christian Estate Planning: give God 10%, then each kid gets an equal split. Biblical Estate Planning: God’s Kingdom is in the forefront in your planning, and the distribution to kids is determined by their faith and their values qualifying them for the portion that they can handle… and no more.
If you’re serious about getting this right, you must read Inheritolatry, by my friend Jim Wise. His Calling is practiced through his role on the team at the Ronald Blue Trust; he advises Christians in Estate Planning and in getting their last moves right, for God and for their family. Click here to order your copy right now (it’s your assignment for Summer reading). Too many believers script their life for success while breathing, followed by calamity once deceased.
Why is this such a big deal? “After a long time, the master returned and settled accounts with them.” You’ll answer – to Him – for what you did with what He gave you – as a Trustee – to manage. Don’t make your last moves your worst moves…