Charitable Estate Planning – Assigning Monetary Values
In a previous article, I started to answer a question about how you should begin planning your estate. In summary, I recommended compiling lists of your assets and debts/liabilities and filing them together with any corresponding documents in a place that your family members can easily find them after your death. This month I would like to continue offering further wise steps you can take to prepare for the distribution of what you leave behind.
After you compile those above-mentioned lists, the next step in your charitable estate planning is to do your best to assign a monetary value to each of your assets. Then deduct your liabilities from the total value of your assets. The result is, of course, the current net value of your wealth.
Working with that, you can prayerfully determine how your wealth should be distributed after your death. As a follower of Christ, you will want to reflect on Paul's words, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). As stewards of what belongs to God, we will give an account to Him for what He has entrusted to us, including what we pass on to others.
Of course, if you are married, your highest priority will be to make sure that the needs of your spouse are met. At your death, your jointly-held assets become your spouse's sole property, but you and your spouse should determine how your assets should be distributed when both of you are gone. Naturally, parents want what is best for their children and generally transfer to them as much of their wealth as possible. Providing an excessive inheritance, however, can be a mistake. Be careful not to breed servitude to mammon rather than servitude to God in the hearts and minds of your heirs. Leaving behind a legacy of charity can inspire your heirs to follow your good example.
Again, these are very important spiritual issues that require much thought and prayer. As you progress through the charitable estate-planning process, here are two websites I've found that can provide wise direction: www.generousgiving.org and www.nationalchristian.com (click on the Giving Library link along the left margin).
I will have more about this important topic next month.
David Warnock is happy to assist you with your questions regarding strategic stewardship. You can reach him at (412) 833-5826 or email him at DavidW [at] HeavensFamily [dot] org.