Charitable Estate Planning – More Options to Consider
Last month I shared some estate-planning advice about choosing those who will steward your wealth and determining how much they will receive. The most important question to ask yourself as you think about these things is, "Does my plan reflect God's plan?" With the help of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and godly counsel, your estate plan can be a kingdom plan.
You should make sure that you name all your beneficiaries on your accounts and insurance policies. Some of your accounts and policies may have been established years ago and may need updating. Many people have discovered the hard way that up-to-date beneficiary designations are important. Even if you have a Last Will that names beneficiaries, under most circumstances it will be ignored if a beneficiary is designated on an account or insurance policy.
Also, determine if the best option for the distribution of your estate is a Last Will or a Living Trust. If you fail to have either of those, the state will determine how your estate is disbursed, which may not be in accordance with your wishes.
A Last Will allows you to designate the transfer of any and all property—from book collections to your home—to specific individuals or ministries. It also allows you to designate guardianship of minor children.
You should consider a Living Trust if you have a large estate that you suspect will exceed the ever-changing estate tax threshold. A Living Trust can protect your assets from Uncle Sam. Living Trusts are more expensive to establish than Living Wills, and they require some initial paperwork on your part. However, a Living Trust avoids probate court and keeps your estate instructions free from public disclosure. Also, if you want to specify the date when a minor will be entitled to designated assets, a trust is an excellent vehicle. I read of one grandmother who is leaving money to each of her grandchildren, but only if they go on a six-month Christian missionary trip by the age of 23. Now there's some godly wisdom!
The two biggest reasons that people do not initiate an estate plan are (1) procrastination and (2) fear of the cost. If you are too busy to start your estate plan today, schedule time just after the new year to begin the process. If fear of legal costs is keeping you from initiating your estate plan, I recommend that you start by visiting LegalZoom.com where you can find answers to many frequently-asked legal questions. That way you'll be armed with more knowledge as you pursue your estate plan.
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.