Redefining legacy: Living generously today and tomorrow with estate gifts

As Reverend Billy Graham’s funeral motorcade drove from his mountain home in Montreat, N.C., 130 miles east to Charlotte, thousands of people waved farewell from overpasses, exit ramps, and parking lots along the interstate. For half a century, Graham rallied millions of people for Christ and his living legacy will certainly last far beyond his death. 

Did you catch that? His living legacy.  

Oftentimes in our efforts to financially secure our future, we miss out on opportunities to be radically generous while we are living. NCF Donor-Advised Funds are helpful to guide our loved ones to biblically steward our resources in the event of death, but it’s also deeply important to live generously today. Living generously for today and not just the future demonstrates and teaches the next generation (and the next generation) about faithful stewardship. As many have said, “Do your giving while you’re living so you know where it’s going.”

Tips for revisiting your estate plan

We encourage you to revisit your estate plan and reframe how you think about legacy. Here are a few things I’d like you to consider today to secure a legacy of hope for tomorrow as followers of Christ: 

  1. A benefactor named charity: You don’t have to decide between giving to charity or your family – your plan can include both. Here’s how I look at it: I have two boys. Instead of thinking about dividing our estate plan 50/50 between our sons, my wife Jacqie and I added a third “kid” – charity. As we teach entrepreneurship and generosity to our boys, this idea of leaving space for charity creates the foundation of a biblical view of generosity.
  2. Thoughtful division: The question shouldn’t just be, How much is enough for my family, but how much is too much? It’s important to think about how each family member contributes to the world and if they have the tools to steward wealth well. Unfortunately for some, money can be the fuel that ignites poor decisions. Consider each benefactor through the lens of what we THINK, HOPE, and FEAR will happen with the funds you leave in their care, and divide accordingly. 
  3. Creative experiences: Design a unique estate plan that uses funds to demonstrate a legacy of generosity. For example, one NCF giver designed into their plan that if their children or grandchildren choose to attend a Christian college, 100% of tuition is paid for by the estate. A similar design could be created for a family member that chooses a career in the mission field. These examples leave clear living legacies of what is important to the giver. 

An inheritance of faith

In a conversation earlier this year with NCF giver Alan Barnhart, I heard something fascinating, something I’ve never heard before in reference to Proverbs 13:22, which says “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (NKJV). “I don’t believe the inheritance mentioned is how we think about inheritance,” Alan said. “I don’t believe it’s an inheritance of finances, but one of faith and stewardship.” He explained that inheritance in biblical days involved land, so that the next generation could work their tails off to make a living. Today’s version is work ethic, education, faith, disciplines …. so heirs can work their tails off to make a living.  

While I am not an estate attorney, I speak with a lot of people – quite regularly – about this topic. And what I’ve learned is that nearly zero families talk about their estate plan. We aren’t discussing money with our kids, which means we aren’t discussing inheritance – the faith or financial kind – either. Everything we are and everything we have is His. I encourage you to invite your family into a meaningful, opening conversation about your vision for your estate’s legacy today, as well as tomorrow. Maybe the streets won’t be lined with thousands of people celebrating our living legacy like Reverend Graham, but we can be confident that what we leave behind will be stewarded with radical, Christ-like generosity.

I would be honored to sit with you and help you map out a plan for this conversation. Reach out when you’re ready.