A generous legacy today and tomorrow with estate gifts

In March 2018, as Reverend Billy Graham’s funeral motorcade drove 130 miles east from his mountain home in Montreat, NC, to Charlotte, thousands of people waved farewell from overpasses, exit ramps, and parking lots along the interstate. For half a century, Graham had rallied millions of people for Christ, and his living legacy will certainly last far beyond his death. 

Did you catch that? His living legacy.  

Often, in our efforts to financially secure our future, we miss out on opportunities to be radically generous while we’re living. A Giving Fund (donor-advised fund) is 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 one after that) about faithful stewardship. As Ron Blue says, “Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going.”

Tips for revisiting your estate plan

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

  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 also, “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 what you THINK, HOPE, and FEAR will happen with the funds you leave in their care. Then divide accordingly to strengthen what you hope to see and mitigate the possibility of your feared outcomes.
  3. Creative experiences – You can design a unique estate plan that uses funds to demonstrate a legacy of generosity. For example, one NCF giver planned for 100 percent of tuition to be paid by the estate for any of their children or grandchildren who choose to attend a Christian college. A similar design could be created for a family member who chooses a career on the mission field. These examples leave clear living legacies of what is important to you, the giver.

An inheritance of faith

In a conversation last year with NCF giver Alan Barnhart, I heard something fascinating, something I’ve never heard before in reference to Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (NKJV). Alan said, “I don’t believe the inheritance mentioned is how we think about inheritance. 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 the next generation could work their tails off to make a living. “Today’s version is work ethic, education, faith, disciplines, so they can work their tails off to make a living,” Alan said.

I love this! It feels like a statement we need to wrestle with. There is, of course, a financial inheritance, but there is also a spiritual inheritance.

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 families almost never 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 are God’s.

I encourage you to invite your family into a meaningful, open 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 legacies like Reverend Graham, but we can grow more confident that what we leave behind will be stewarded with radical, Christlike generosity.

Our team at NCF would be honored to sit with you and help you map out a plan for this conversation.

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