Two things are certain and one nearly so. The two, as you already know, are death and taxes. The third is procrastination. It is almost as predictable as the grave.
For some reason, many people wait years to complete their estate plans. Most of these people wait too long. They die and leave behind a mess that others have to sort through and solve.
Because so many people procrastinate in this area, the states have adopted rules to determine what happens to a deceased person’s estate. The court appoints a lawyer to carry out these rules and to resolve liabilities and distribute assets accordingly.
Unfortunately, the rules are generic and don’t take into account the wishes of the deceased. A parent who dies without a will and leaves a minor child behind has missed his or her opportunity to name a trusted, Christian guardian. Not only will the child’s support system be in doubt until a decision is made, you can’t be sure that your child will receive the kind of spiritual nurturing that you would have wanted them to have.
A Christian estate plan can include a preamble—an introductory message sharing your faith in Christ for salvation. This is an opportunity to reassure and influence family members that unfortunately is missed without a Christian estate plan.
Another example is the person who dies without leaving philanthropic instructions in a will or other estate planning document. Money that might otherwise go to the Lord’s work and other charities supported by the person during life are disbursed according to “the rules.”
The court overseeing the probate process may be unaware of the concerns and priorities of the deceased. Consequently, relationships with family members and final decisions may not be consistent with the ideals and wishes of the deceased. The whole process of finalizing probate and dealing with all the loose ends can be frustrating and even difficult for loved ones, especially during the period of grieving.
These reasons and more prompt us to encourage all our supporters and friends to take care of their estate planning responsibilities. We have seen the heartache and complications when a person dies without an estate plan. We have also seen how smoothly things go when proper planning has been done in advance.
To assist you in this process, we offer a free booklet titled, “Estate Planning for the Christian Steward.” The booklet will help you prepare for meetings with a WELS Christian giving counselor and an estate planning attorney, and the process could save you legal fees.
If you prefer a free hardcopy of the booklet or want free assistance with your estate plan by a WELS Christian giving counselor, call WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482.