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Remembering the Lord's Work in your Estate Plan

By Christian Estate Planning Attorney Rodney H. Piercey

 

We are frequently blessed by sermons about our stewardship responsibilities and how important it is to give a portion of our earnings back to the Lord's Work.  Listening to the Holy Spirit and seeking God's will in this area of our lives will be absolutely transforming to our spiritual and financial lives.  But have you ever heard a sermon about stewardship opportunities at death?

 

You probably have not.  The reason is that there are no classes taught in Seminary or seminars at pastor's conferences about this subject.  It is a very technical subject that combines the Word and our tax and probate laws together in a unique way.  God has established government and allowed our laws to be written, so it should be no surprise to learn that our laws are written to encourage stewardship and giving to the Lord's work at our death.

It is true that the concept of the tithe is based upon income and first fruits. If we have been faithful during our lives, it can be said that the wealth that we have when we pass away is "after tithe dollars".   However, when you think about it, there may be growth on assets that has never been tithed, and giving at death through our estate plan is really our last chance on earth to give to the Lord's work. 

When we pass away, we will be giving our wealth away, whether we want to or not and whether we plan to or not.  If we do nothing, our wealth will go to those that state law dictates, and may include the government, in death taxes.  It is very likely that there will also be unnecessary probate costs.   Jesus has admonished:  "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21)  Notice that Jesus does not say to "Let Caesar render" but calls upon each of us to take an active part and do the rendering. 

Our estate tax laws are written to permit each of us, with proper estate planning, to render and redirect all or a portion of the money that would go to estate taxes to the Lord's work.  You could say that is the part of the wealth that you have been entrusted with which cannot be passed on to heirs or kept in the family.  Jim Elliot wrote: "He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose".   Our probate laws have also been written to allow us to avoid the expenses and delays of probate.

So we all have a choice.  Do we do nothing and let Caesar render taxes against our estates and incur the unnecessary costs of probate, do we give our children bigger homes and more expensive cars, or do we consider an investment in our eternal account.  "For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.  Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”   (PHILIPPIANS 4:16,17) 

Randy Alcorn wrote in The Treasure Principle:  “Think of it in terms of a dot and a line…Our present life on earth is the dot.  It begins. It ends.  It’s brief.  But from that dot extends a line that goes on forever.  The line is eternity, which Christians will spend in heaven.  Right now we are living in the dot.  But what are we living for?  The shortsighted person lives for the dot.  The person with perspective lives for the line."” 

 

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