Posts

The perfect tool to meet major goals in retirement

Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

Retired WELS teachers Ron and Joan Zahn have established several charitable gift annuities (CGAs) over the years. “They seemed to us a perfect tool through which we could meet two major goals in retirement.” Those goals include giving to the Lord while having money for their own needs. As you can see from the illustration, a CGA is a great way for someone 60 or older to do just that (shown for someone 75 years old with payments beginning immediately—payments can also be deferred to a future date).

Giving through CGAs provided the Zahns with “the satisfaction of furthering ministry.” They said, “We found it to be fun to decide which organizations or entities would be the recipients.” They decided to support endowment funds for missions and ministerial education as well as several congregations and area Lutheran high schools that have been a blessing to their family.

If you are interested in a charitable gift annuity, your local WELS Christian giving counselor can assist you.

The donor advised fund – a popular way to give

“The growth of donor advised funds (DAFs) may be the biggest story in the charitable sector during the last decade,” according to planned giving consultant, Alan Cantor. What is a donor advised fund and why is it so popular?

With a donor advised fund, an individual, family, or corporation makes an irrevocable, tax-deductible contribution of cash, securities, or other property to WELS Foundation. At any time thereafter, the donor recommends distributions to qualified WELS ministries. The fund can be established with current gifts, deferred gifts (such as charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts), and testamentary gifts (such as wills, revocable trusts, or beneficiary designations for life insurance policies or retirement accounts).

What’s driving the growth of this type of gift? A donor advised fund provides an alternative to the private family foundation. You can accomplish many of the same goals, but with far less administrative work and expense. Some of the benefits include:

• Donor advised funds (DAFs) provide an income tax charitable deduction in the year of the gift to the DAF regardless of when distributions are made.
• As with all gifts of long-term appreciated securities, none of the appreciation is subject to capital gains tax.
• Donors enjoy the convenience of deciding when to contribute to the fund and when to make recommendations for distributions to ministry. They can give to the fund in the years when they have greatest tax liability.
• Donors enjoy encouraging family stewardship by involving children and other loved ones in the decision-making process for the grant recommendations.
• As with all gifts to ministry, there is joy in giving to the Lord and supporting areas of ministry close to your heart.

Learn more here, then contact a WELS Christian giving counselor if you are interested in starting a donor advised fund.

Online tools personalize gift benefits

With the help of planned giving vendor PG Calc, WELS Foundation has updated our website with online tools to help users personalize the benefits of different giving options:

  • The Explore Gift Options tool walks the user through several questions to help them find the best gift for their personal situation.
  • The user can Run a Personalized Gift Illustration for a tailored diagram of any gift.
  • As a person navigates the WELS Foundation site and reads about certain gifts (for example, the charitable gift annuity) they can click to view a specific illustration for that type of gift and personalize the illustration to their situation.

As always, if somebody is interested in learning more or would like assistance with making a gift, WELS provides Christian giving counselors at no cost or obligation to help WELS members carry out their charitable goals.

WELS Foundation executive director Jim Holm hopes prospective donors find the tools useful. He says, “We want to make it as easy as possible for those supporting WELS ministry—their church, synod, or another WELS organization—to explore the options available.”

Springtime and harvest

Spring is planting time for the future harvest. The ground is prepared and the seeds sown. Then comes the growth and eventually the ripened fruit and the harvest.

The same sequence occurs when donors plan for future ministry support by planting endowments. The “seeds” of cash or appreciated assets are placed in the “ground” of an agreement where growth occurs under the watchful eye of investment managers. Eventually the earnings are harvested and used to fulfill the purpose of the donor’s endowment. The cycle repeats year after year as a specified portion is used for operational expenses or other designations identified in advance by the donor.

Endowment funds are valuable to the synod’s ministry plan because they represent a steady flow of financial resources. They add stability or even allow for new ministry to be accomplished.

Endowments benefit donors as well. Not only is it a way to give to the Lord’s work that continues the offerings they’re giving now and that provides tax benefits, these giving vehicles, which sometimes are named by the donors, create a legacy for the donor so future family members and coming generations will know that the donor was committed to the mission and work of Jesus.

WELS has endowment funds that provide annual support for missions and ministerial education. If interested in supporting WELS ministry through an endowment, you can give to one of these endowments or start your own.

The process of setting up an endowment is quite simple. A donor or group of donors can establish a donor designated endowment through WELS Foundation, which provides the necessary reporting and administration and invests the funds in the cost-effective, professionally managed portfolios of WELS Investment Funds.

Would you like to learn more? Your local WELS Christian giving counselor can help you explore the possibilities and benefits.

Two options when giving real estate

Real property values have been rising at a time when interest rates have remained low for an extended period. Financial assets have seen market values increase, too. Is it time to consider making a gift of your real estate to the Lord through WELS Foundation?

You may have a vacation property or undeveloped lot that has appreciated in value over the years. Did you intend to use it a lot more when it was purchased than you do now? It can be given through WELS Foundation to your church, synod, or another WELS ministry without incurring tax on that appreciation. Once we sell it, the value of your gift can be significantly more than had you sold it and donated after-tax proceeds of the sale.

Either way, your gift qualifies for an income tax charitable deduction, but it is typically lower if you sell first. Consider these possibilities for your appreciated real estate.

1. Give the entire property.

As a qualified charitable organization, WELS Foundation can sell the property without incurring capital gain. For example, a lot purchased for $10,000 in 1990 that appraises for $60,000 today would produce a $50,000 capital gain. Instead, a gift toward ministry through WELS Foundation of that same lot avoids the tax on the gain.

2. Give a portion of the property.

Imagine that giving the entire lot doesn’t make sense to you, but a smaller gift might. It is possible to give an undivided interest and accomplish similar goals, though to a lesser degree. A gift of an undivided one-half interest in that $60,000 lot today means that both you and your designated ministry will receive half of the sale proceeds when it sells. Today’s charitable deduction will help offset the capital gains taxes due on the portion that you kept.

More information

To learn more about gifts of real estate, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Confusion about bequests

The language used to make a gift through your will to the Lord’s work can sometimes be confusing. We talk about making a bequest, but what is that? The word “bequest,” which has its origins in Old English, means a transfer of personal property by will. Many people say a bequest can occur through any end-of-life transfer (e.g., beneficiary designation), not just through a will.

It is common to arrange our bequests in ways that minimize taxes and administrative costs in order to maximize the benefits to family and charity, but what’s the best way to accomplish this? Will your heirs incur income or inheritance taxes or will your estate have estate taxes or hidden income tax liabilities?

Does any of this this confuse you? If so, you’re not alone, and that may be why people put off writing a will. It is intimidating to some folks to set an appointment with an attorney and to discuss unfamiliar topics.

Fortunately, we can assist you with taking the confusion out of bequests. In fact, we want to send you a free booklet, Estate Planning for the Christian Steward, that explains in simple terms the basics of having a will and other steps for establishing a sound, tax-wise estate plan. We can also help you plan a future gift to Jesus through his work at WELS.

We are ready to personally assist in answering any questions you may have without cost or obligation. We can also help you find a qualified attorney, one who will simplify the process for you.

To receive the booklet or personal assistance, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

A gift to the Lord, a tax deduction now, and income in retirement

A single-life annuity illustration. (Call 800-827-5482 for a two-life annuity illustration.)

If you are 45 or older and would like to make a gift towards the Lord’s work that provides income during retirement—and a charitable deduction now (while income is higher), consider a deferred gift annuity. A deferred gift annuity allows you to make a gift in exchange for fixed quarterly payments starting at a future date and continuing until you go to heaven. Pictured is how this would work for someone who is 55 with payments beginning in 10 years.

(Transferring appreciated assets, e.g. stocks, may be an even more beneficial way to fund your deferred gift annuity since it may allow you to avoid capital gains taxes now and pay them in a more favorable way later.)

Rev. John Beck and his wife Cindy have found the deferred gift annuity to be a convenient and beneficial way to make a planned gift to the Lord. Pastor Beck says:

Some years ago, I recall a WELS Christian giving counselor commenting that Christians who have given offerings all their life may want to make one last planned offering in their death. That made sense to me; the question was how to make that happen. By the grace of God a very generous and supportive congregation enabled us to buy a home near the bottom of a housing market that began to swing sharply upward after we bought. After some medical setbacks and early retirement we needed to sell our home but realized a significant financial gain that would allow us to plan that final offering. Still, looking ahead, we knew that we would need to supplement our income stream. That’s where the deferred charitable gift annuity comes in. With this vehicle, there will be a nice future gift for the Lord’s work, and we will receive lifetime payments. It is a win-win situation that I would encourage everyone to explore.

A WELS Christian giving counselor can discuss with you the details of how this type of gift would work in your personal situation.

Giving opportunity continues in 2017 . . . and beyond

If you’re 70.5 or older, you can make qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) from your IRA to your church, synod, and other WELS organizations without counting the distributions as income for federal tax purposes. WELS member Alan Kohlhaas says the process is “very smooth.” “One check sent directly to WELS from my IRA holder counts as part of the required minimum distribution, but no taxes are paid on the transfer. The QCD also allows me to maximize the donation and use the standard deduction on my tax return.” Learn more at wels.net/qcd or by calling your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Revocable or not?

Can you identify the differences between a revocable and irrevocable gift? See whether you think the statements below are true or false.

  1. A gift made through your will is an irrevocable gift.
  2. Both revocable and irrevocable gifts qualify for a current income tax deduction.
  3. Naming WELS as a contingent beneficiary in an IRA is a revocable gift.
  4. A gift that can be recalled before it is completed is revocable.
  5. Donors without a lot of assets are wise to make irrevocable gifts first.

Answers

  1. False. Anyone naming a charity as a beneficiary in his or her will can change the amount and even revoke that gift as long as they are alive. Only at death (when the estate is activated) does that gift become irrevocable.
  2. False. To qualify for a tax deduction, every gift must be completed. Any gift that is revocable will not entitle the donor to a deduction until the gift is transferred to a qualified charitable entity.
  3. True. A contingent IRA gift such as “equal shares to A, B, C, and WELS” can be revoked any time during life. In fact, if B does not survive the IRA account owner, upon death A, C, and WELS will be paid their shares by the IRA administrator.
  4. True. When giving shares of stock, for example, the transaction can be reversed if the wrong stock is mistakenly sent out. Only when the shares are correctly sent and accepted by WELS is the gift complete.
  5. False. People of modest means are normally advised to keep what they have in case it is needed at some point in the future. Changes in health, financial circumstances, or income could mean that an asset irrevocably given away previously, even if placed in a trust, could be seen as a mistake.

What This Means to You
Whether you are thinking of making an irrevocable or revocable gift to WELS, an important consideration is to “expect the unexpected.” In other words, it may be better to give in such a way to preserve your future personal freedom and financial security.

This is just one reason we recommend that you talk with your local WELS Christian giving counselor. He knows the various options for supporting WELS gospel ministry through irrevocable and revocable gifts. He can help you think through the purpose for your gift, the best way to fund it while covering your family’s financial needs, and the right timing. He can also encourage you to talk with your attorney or other capable adviser, and provide information that will help you have that conversation.

Five benefits of an endowment fund

God has blessed WELS as members see the benefits of giving to the WELS Missions and Ministerial Education Endowment Funds or establishing their own donor designated endowment fund through WELS Foundation. Some give now because they want to see the results right away. Others make arrangements for their estate assets to be transferred when the Lord takes them to heaven. Some stand in both worlds by giving now and adding to it later through a bequest.

Why do people make endowment gifts to WELS? Here are five benefits.

  1. Giving thanks to God. Our gifts are a recognition that all we have is from God for the purpose of bringing him glory. We worship him for giving us a Savior from sin, Jesus Christ. We appreciate the privilege he has given us to be a part of sharing his gospel with others.
  2. A lasting legacy. Donors often inform their families regarding the endowment funds they establish. Because the fund is permanent, the legacy of support for Christ’s work through WELS will carry forward in perpetuity and influence future generations in the family. The commitment of the fund’s first donor(s) remains as a reminder of their values for children, great-grandchildren, and others.
  3. Continue regular giving. There are a number of donors who recognize that their gifts each year will be missed once the Lord takes them to heaven. Instead of allowing that to happen, these wise givers create an estate gift that is 25 times the amount they currently give. For example, a couple who gives $1,000 annually can endow their gift by making a one-time gift of $25,000. Once the endowment gift is made, their inflation-adjusted annual distributions continue in perpetuity.
  4. Permanence. Donors may see a similarity between their retirement funds and endowment funds in that both are guarded closely, invested separately, and protected so the principal remains intact. Endowments are managed much like retirement accounts, providing needed income in a predictable way while seeking to grow the amount and not have it eroded by inflation.
  5. Strengthening WELS. Every year WELS needs funding for continuing the training of workers, supporting congregations, and doing mission work. That priority for the support of current ministry will always remain. Annual endowment distributions ease some of the financial pressure and allows synod leaders to plan with confidence.

You can learn more at our website about supporting WELS ministry through an endowment fund. For assistance with an endowment gift, please contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

WELS Foundation’s 2016 annual report: “Helping people support ministry”

WELS Foundation’s 2016 annual report summarizes how the WELS subsidiary helps members leave gifts as a lasting monument of their faith. The Foundation does this by providing information on different giving opportunities and assistance with gifts through WELS Christian giving counselors. Over the last three years WELS Foundation has administered and distributed more than $14 million in donor directed gifts to various WELS ministries. Of this amount, 72 percent went to WELS national ministries, 9 percent to WELS affiliated ministries, and 19 percent to WELS congregations.

WELS Foundation President, Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, and Executive Director, Mr. Jim Holm, thank God for the many generous gifts the Lord has prompted for the benefit of his kingdom. Quoting the apostle Paul, they state the Foundation’s high privilege: “We administer (the offering) in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help” (2 Corinthians 8:19).

A printed copy of the annual report was mailed in late November to all WELS congregations, area Lutheran high schools, and parasynodicals.

O give thanks unto the Lord!

As we thank God for so many earthly blessings and, most importantly, for sending his Son to be our Savior, this is a reminder of one particularly exciting gifting opportunity. Anyone 70.5 or older can make qualified charitable distributions from their IRA of up to $100,000 per year to their church, synod, and other WELS organizations without counting the distributions as income for federal tax purposes. This may be an especially useful gifting strategy for those who do not itemize their income tax deductions.

To learn more, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

A gift that pays income to you or your loved ones

2016-10-cga-illustration

Single-life annuity illustration (two-life annuities are also available).

A charitable gift annuity (CGA) is a unique way to support WELS ministry. Make a tax-deductible gift and receive an income stream for life (or have the payments go to loved ones). This illustration shows how a CGA would work for someone who is 75 years old with payments beginning immediately. (Note that rates vary based on age. Payments can also be deferred to a future date.)

Some WELS members enjoy giving in this way so much that they have multiple gift annuities. One donor we worked with exclaimed to his WELS Christian giving counselor, “Charitable gift annuities are like potato chips; you can’t have just one!”

Contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor for more information and assistance.

Supporting WELS ministry through your IRA – “We were very pleased”

WELS members Dan and Frieda Carow were moved by the love of Jesus to support gospel ministry. They decided to use their IRA because “there are tax advantages.”

When giving through an IRA, anyone 70.5 or older can make tax-free charitable distributions of up to $100,000 per year. The Carows have enjoyed making multiple gifts to churches, the synod, and other WELS organizations in this way.

If you want to take advantage of this unique way to support the Lord’s work, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor. Dan and Frieda say, “We were very pleased with the assistance.”

Charity with stability

A charitable gift annuity (CGA) is set up in such a way that you can find joy in supporting WELS ministry while also resting easy thanks to the stability provided by this type of giving instrument:

  • Partially tax-free payments to you or someone you designate during your lifetime
  • Payments for the rest of your life (or, in the case of a two-life CGA, payments continue for the lifetimes of both annuitants), no matter how long
  • Backed by all the assets of WELS Foundation
  • Stable payments, even if investment markets slump
  • A significant income tax charitable deduction on this year’s return

And the process for setting up a CGA is simple. Call your local WELS Christian giving counselor for personalized assistance. A minimum gift amount of $10,000 will start your guaranteed quarterly payments, which you can even have automatically deposited into your bank. At the end of your life, when the Lord takes you to heaven, the remainder of the gift will go to the WELS ministry or ministries that you designate.

WELS Foundation distributions support ministry

In July, WELS Foundation distributed more than $2.3 million to various WELS ministries from the more than 300 separate endowment funds it manages. These distributions went to support local congregations and schools as well as WELS missions and ministerial education schools.

Although Congregation Mission Offerings are the backbone of the synod’s ministry financial plan and provide much of the support for the ministry we carry out together, our synod is also blessed with other sources of support, including this annual distribution from WELS Foundation.

Martin Luther College was named number five on the list of most affordable private colleges in the United States by Money magazine in its August 2016 issue. This is possible thanks to the generosity that God has inspired in donors who love the gospel of Jesus and value the training of the called workers who preach and teach it. The annual endowment distributions from WELS Foundation are helping our schools provide greater financial assistance so that the cost of becoming a full-time gospel worker is more affordable.

These endowment distributions are also helping the Joint Mission Council take advantage of the opportunities the Lord is laying at our feet to serve those from many different cultures. Recently the Joint Mission Council started funding ministries that are letting immigrants reach back to their country of origin through WELS churches in Vancouver (Chinese), Boise (Vietnamese), Denver (Hispanic), and Las Vegas (Liberians).

We thank God for those who are able to support WELS ministries by establishing endowment funds and pray that he bless our efforts in his name. If you want to learn more about establishing an endowment fund or have questions about your estate plan, contact your local Christian giving counselor.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

What will you leave behind?

Everyone’s life leaves footprints. The Christian follows in the footprints of Christ to impress upon others a strength of character, good works, kindness, compassion, and values. Our positive impressions enhance the lives of our friends and loved ones and direct them to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as well.

Thoughtful estate planning is one means we have to do this. For example, consider the effect of a plan that not only includes provisions for family members, but resources for WELS ministry.

1. An estate gift makes a positive statement.

When you include WELS in the final disposition of your estate, you declare to your family and friends that you believe in and care about the Savior’s mission. Your parting gift becomes a clear declaration of your love for Jesus and his values.

2. An estate gift provides needed funding.

Estate gifts are especially valuable, not only because they tend to be larger than annual gifts, but because they often come at critical times. They provide that extra boost to the ministry plan that can make the difference between program advancement and retrenchment.

Estate gifts can be designated for a specific purpose or they can be unrestricted for use where needed most. They can fund endowments that perpetually provide an ongoing witness to your friends and loved ones that you believe in the work of Christ through WELS.

3. An estate gift encourages imitation.

There’s something about a well-planned estate gift that influences others to “go and do likewise.” As friends and family members plan their own estates, they may be inspired by your Christian generosity and thoughtfulness. Your gift may open up resources from God for WELS through other estates.

If you are interested in supporting your church, synod, or another WELS ministry through your estate plan, see our Christian estate planning guide, then contact a WELS Christian giving counselor for assistance.

Planned giving made easy

Our goal is to share with you and other WELS members the different opportunities available to plan a gift that provides for loved ones and Christ’s work while possibly reducing taxes. That is why we work with WELS Ministry of Christian Giving to distribute informative print materials and provide face to face counsel.

One of the biggest challenges with encouraging planned giving is overcoming the thought that it is complex and difficult. Yes, some giving techniques can be technical. However, your giving counselor will work with WELS Foundation and your own legal/financial advisors to manage the details so that you can simply enjoy seeing your plans arranged and your charitable intentions met. In the end, you’ll discover how easy it is to follow through on your Spirit-led willingness to support the Lord’s work.

Do you wish to make financial arrangements that include a gift for WELS? Contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor to discuss your personal situation in a convenient, comfortable setting. There is no cost or obligation involved.

A new, tax-wise way to support the Lord’s work

As of 2016 anybody 70.5 years or older has a new option for making gifts to the Lord’s work at church, a local WELS-affiliated ministry, and/or a WELS area of ministry: your IRA!

Typically IRA distributions are taxable and, by increasing your taxable income, they may reduce certain tax deductions and personal exemptions you might claim and may increase the tax on your Social Security income or even increase your Medicare premium. But, at the turn of the year, Congress made permanent the opportunity known as the IRA charitable rollover where direct transfers from an IRA to charity are free from federal and potentially state income tax. If you generally do not itemize your deductions, a direct transfer to a WELS ministry may be especially appealing because you will still receive tax benefits for your generosity. If you do not need the required minimum distributions that you receive from your IRA, consider directing those to WELS to save on taxes, then use the cash you would have given to charity for other needs.

Under the new law you and your spouse, assuming he or she is 70.5 years or older and also has an IRA, may each make direct transfers of up to $100,000 per year to charity. Direct transfers to charity are wholly excluded from your taxable income, so they do not have any adverse effect on other tax benefits you might enjoy. These transfers do not generate a charitable deduction, but the relief from tax impact is often more advantageous. Consult your tax or financial advisor to determine the most appropriate gift assets for your situation.

How do I make a direct transfer of IRA assets?

You will need to contact the investment firm that handles your IRA to request a direct transfer to a particular WELS ministry. To ensure that your IRA transfer is not taxable, the check must be made payable to the charity, not to you personally.

You can give to multiple WELS designations by directing your transfer to WELS Foundation. They will distribute funds to the ministries per your instructions. WELS Foundation then provides you with the appropriate acknowledgement for this type of gift.

If interested, talk to your financial planners and your WELS Christian giving counselor to learn more.

Give while you live . . . and later

Some loyal donors have discovered a way to continue supporting the work of Jesus on earth after they have gone to be with him in heaven. They make arrangements now to provide a gift through their will for the benefit of a WELS endowment fund or they can establish a testamentary fund for the benefit of WELS through WELS Foundation that will provide annual gifts in perpetuity.

For example, “Mr. and Mrs. Foresight” have been making annual gifts of $2,000 to WELS for a number of years. In their will they arrange for $50,000 toward an endowment fund. Thereafter, an amount approximately equal to their previous annual gifts will go to WELS each year.

There are other ways to create an endowment fund. For example, the Foresights can make a gift now with appreciated real estate or securities, avoid capital gains, receive a current tax deduction, and receive an income for their lives. Later, after they have been taken to heaven, whatever remains of the gift could be used to establish an endowment fund (provided the remainder is at least $25,000).

If you are interested in learning more about giving to or establishing an endowment fund, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor. He can help you explore the possibilities and benefits.

A gift annuity that’s right for you

Have you heard about the charitable gift annuity? When you donate at least $10,000 in cash or securities to WELS Foundation, you or a loved one will receive annuity payments for the rest of your life. Your payment rate is based on your age and a portion of your payment may even be tax-free. The most basic form is called an immediate payment gift annuity because it begins paying you income right away.

Donors like this gift vehicle because it allows them to give a thank offering to the Lord while guaranteeing them payments they can use for various needs. The payments come at the same time, and the amount never changes. There is also an immediate income tax charitable deduction for donors who itemize their tax returns.

Besides the immediate payment gift annuity, there are a couple of other setups. Gift annuities can have delayed start dates. You can establish one now and defer the payments for 10 years or however long you wish. The longer you delay payments, the higher the payments will be. This is because the money you contributed is invested prudently and compounds tax-free until the payments begin.

Another type of deferred gift annuity is called “flexible” because you can establish the annuity now and determine later when you want the payments to begin (for example, when you decide to retire or if a medical need arises).

If interested, learn more, then contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor for assistance in setting one up. He can also provide your with personalized examples of how the various gift annuities work in your situation.

Congress extends provision for tax-free gifts to charity from IRA

For those aged 70½ or older, it is once again possible to make a tax free gift directly from your IRA to any WELS ministry.

On December 18, 2015 Congress passed legislation to extend the IRA charitable rollover for 2015 and beyond. Up to $100,000 per year can be transferred directly from an IRA to one or more qualified charities free from federal and potentially state income tax.

A WELS member can take advantage of this tax benefit by directing their annual required IRA minimum distribution directly to WELS Foundation. WELS Foundation will then distribute their gift per the donor’s instruction to any WELS ministry including their local congregation, WELS missions, or schools. (For a complete listing refer to the WELS Yearbook.) We encourage donors to speak with their tax and financial professionals before requesting a qualified charitable distribution from their IRA.

WELS Foundation is the foundation of choice for WELS members and ministries. For more information on how you can make this tax wise gift to any WELS ministry contact your WELS Christian giving counselor, mission advancement representative, or WELS Foundation (800-752-8940).

Reviewing Your Estate Plan

Once a person signs a will and tucks it away for safekeeping, the old saying come to life: “Out of sight; out of mind.” On one hand, it is good to be relieved of the worry of intestacy (dying without a will). On the other hand, things change and a will that becomes outdated can cause problems.

That is why it is a good idea to review your will every few years, particularly when there have been changes that may affect your plans. It just takes a few moments, but the practice can spare your loved ones some heartaches down the road and ensure that your Christian stewardship goals are properly carried out. (One tip: If it’s inconvenient to access the original will, make a copy to keep handy for easy reference.)

One reason for reviewing your will is change in the status of your dependents. Has God blessed your family with a new child? Or, if you no longer have dependent children, you may want to revise any custodial trusts created by the will.

Has there been a death in the family? A redistribution of assets may be in order. Does an adult child need more assistance than your other children? Again, a revised will might be in order.

Another reason to review is if there have been changes to the tax laws.

Changes in your finances, health, or family are important considerations. Charitable giving priorities may also change. If your children are doing well on their own, you may want to increase your bequest to your favorite charities. You can double-check that your arrangement utilizes your assets in a way that is most advantageous for your family and for charity.

Wills and other estate planning documents are only as good as the degree they reflect your current needs and priorities. It’s also important to make sure they coordinate with beneficiary designations and payable/transfer on death statements, and that they testify to your faith in Jesus our Lord. So take the time to read them over occasionally. Talk about these things with your family. Give yourself the satisfaction of knowing that your house is in order.

If you want assistance reviewing your documents or if you have never prepared a will, now is the time to care for this important matter. We have a free workbook that takes you through the steps of preparing a Christian estate plan. We can also provide assistance through a WELS Christian giving counselor and suggest a competent estate planning attorney to finalize the process.

Keep Giving After You’re in Heaven

If you have made regular direct gifts to WELS over the years,  you are helping to provide a continuing source of stability. WELS depends on annual gifts to carry out out its various ministries year after year, and we appreciate the Christian generosity of faithful donors.

Did you know it is possible to continue providing annual gifts to WELS long after you have gone to heaven? You can do this by giving to one of the WELS endowment funds—or you can establish your own endowment fund for the benefit of a WELS ministry through WELS Foundation.

Here’s how it works. Whatever amount you donate provides distributions of four percent of the three year rolling average of the fund to the designated ministry every year until the Lord returns. For example, a one-time gift of $25,000 (the minimum needed to start an endowment) would provide an estimated $1,000 every year. Larger amounts, of course, will provide higher annual gifts. You can give now and/or later through your estate plan.

If interested in making a planned gift to a WELS endowment fund or starting your own, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Q&A: year-end giving

Q: We have included WELS in our will. However, we are interested in making donations now. Is there any advantage to giving an offering to WELS this year?
A: Absolutely. If you itemize your deductions, you are not liable for taxes on donations to charitable organizations. A gift will produce tax savings proportionate to your situation. When you remember a charity in your will, you do not receive income tax benefits. Also, money donated now goes immediately to ministry and, if inflation is considered, will have more buying power.

Q: I do not itemize my deductions on my income tax forms. Is there any way to make a sizeable contribution to WELS and reap some tax savings?
A: Yes. By donating appreciated assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds) you can make a larger gift for the same cost as giving cash. This is because you avoid the capital gains tax. Meanwhile, WELS receives the full value of the assets. If you’ve taken on loss on your securities, you can give the cash generated by the sale and often benefit from deducting all or a portion of the loss.

Q: At this time of year, I am flooded with appeals for outright gifts. Why is this?
A: One reason may be that the Lord has prompted you to support a wide variety of ministries over the years. Those ministries realize that, like many people, you may assess your yearly charitable giving in November to be sure you have made that year’s gifts. They simply want to gratefully illustrate the impact of your previous support and ask you to consider a special gift at this time.

Q: What should I keep in mind regarding my year-end gifts?
A: To take advantage of 2015 tax savings, gifts must be postmarked by December 31. You may want to consider a year-end gift if you received a year-end bonus or other unexpected income. Remember to reflect on the fulfillment of God’s promise to send his Son Jesus to be our Savior, as well as the blessings of the past year and how gracious God has been.

For assistance with a year-end gift, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.