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Gifts in a Will Articles

A String Around the Finger

“Keep reminding them of these things.” (2 Timothy 2:14, NIV)

“Don’t forget!” These words have a way of grabbing our attention!

What did I forget? Did I leave the coffee pot on? Did I miss a meeting?

There was a time when people used to tie strings around their fingers as reminders. Now we just ask Alexa to keep us on task.

While imploring young Timothy to keep the Word of Christ, the Apostle Paul uses a surprising reminder – his own life! On any given day and under any circumstance, he knew his story pointed to the saga of saving grace through Jesus Christ. So Paul ties “a string” around Timothy’s finger to remind him of the Truth.

He says, “You know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings… the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:10-11, NIV)

The implication here is that each of us must study life stories that point us to Jesus. Who serves as your string, calling you to hear and obey the voice of Jesus? Even further, what reminder is your life’s story providing others?

When family and friends consider your purpose, your love and even your sufferings, how are you pointing them to what matters most?

There are any number of ways you can provide reminders to your family about the Word of God and the impact Christ has had on your life. One tangible way to do this is by writing a spiritual love letter. A spiritual love letter allows you to communicate your faith and values to the next generation. It’s a meaningful way to wrap a string around their fingers, well beyond your lifetime. 

When the road seems difficult, or they simply need a little encouragement, your life’s story will be a reminder to your loved ones, “Don’t forget!”

Passing Your Values From Generation to Generation

Writing a Spiritual Love Letter 

A spiritual love letter may be one of the most meaningful gifts you can leave to your family and friends. Sometimes referred to as an “ethical will,” a spiritual love letter is an informal document separate from your legal will, designed to pass along your Christian values, life lessons and blessings from one generation to the next.

Families have been crafting these legacy documents for centuries. In fact, the practice traces its origins all the way back to Jacob gathering his sons to offer them a blessing, just before his passing (Genesis 49:1-33).

Writing a spiritual love letter may feel daunting at first. However, if you view it as a love letter to your family, the process can be spiritually deep and satisfying. Furthermore, since this is not a legal document, the content, length and form are completely up to you. There is no right or wrong way to go about it; the letter should reflect your personal tone and style.

Most people include these three basic elements in their spiritual love letters…

1. Beliefs and values.

What are your core beliefs about God? How have your faith and convictions guided the way you’ve lived your life?

2. Life lessons.

What are the most important things you’ve learned from your mentors? What truths have you gleaned from life’s victories, challenges and disappointments?

3. Messages of hope.

Which Scriptures have brought personal encouragement? What are your greatest hopes and prayers for your loved ones? What blessing do you want to offer them?

Once you’ve completed your spiritual love letter, make sure to save it along with your will, in a safe location where your personal representative knows where to find it. In doing so, you will leave your family a tangible gift of love, hope and encouragement they can carry with them in the years to come.

How Much Should I Leave to Charity?

3 Ways to Weave Giving Into Your Will 

“How much should I leave to Westminster Seminary California (WSC) and the other ministries close to my heart?”

It’s a practical question asked by those who are working out the details of their wills or trusts.

Your best answer depends on your circumstances, objectives and values. However, many families consider one of three giving models.

1. Percentage or Tithe

Many individuals allocate a certain percentage of their will toward WSC and other Kingdom causes. Some designate 10 percent to reinforce the biblical concept of tithing to their families.

2. Child Named Charity 

Some families choose to add a “child named Charity” to their wills. By this method, for example, if a couple had four children, each of the children would receive 1/5 of their belongings, and the remaining 1/5 could go toward charity.

3. Gifts of Assets

People often designate real estate, business interests, life insurance, retirement assets, machinery or even personal collections as gifts to WSC. There are a number of reasons people do this, whether it’s because the property has special meaning, their children have no further use for it or because they wish to protect their families from unnecessary taxes.

What’s the right answer for you? It may be helpful to talk with a trusted ally who can help you sort through all the options to determine the best fit for your goals and circumstances.

Through WSC’s partnership with Barnabas Foundation, you have direct access to this kind of trusted planning support. At no cost to you, you can speak with a planner who will help you identify a plan that honors God, cares for your family and furthers the important mission of your favorite ministries. 

When You Can’t Agree on a Plan

How to Find Common Will-Planning Ground With Your Spouse

What a wonderful miracle marriage is!  God brings two different people – with unique personalities, experiences and opinions – and binds them together in a beautiful, holy union. 

Of course, unity doesn’t come without its challenges – and this is especially true when creating a will or estate plan.

One person may have strong viewpoints on how their wealth should be transferred, while the other person has significant anxiety. Likewise, couples may have diverging viewpoints on what and how much should be given to their children or what should go to charity.

If will planning is a hot-button conversation for you and your spouse, you’re in good company! Here are four steps to help you move past your differences and toward the completion of an effective estate plan.

1. Call it out

This is a difficult topic and likely very emotional. Acknowledge this from the get-go, and commit to listening and honoring one another.

2. Put away your boxing gloves

Don’t treat this conversation as a battle that will be won or lost. Come to the conversation prayed up and determined to find common ground.

3. Discuss shared values

You have faith and values that have become the bedrock of your marriage and parenthood. Take a step back from the expected distribution plan. What do you really want to accomplish and model to your loved ones through your plan?

4. Identify areas of difference or concern

Where do you see things differently? More importantly, why? Listen carefully to one another with the intent to understand.

5. Explore creative solutions

Look for the planning solutions that support your shared values and help you achieve your ultimate goals.

Many couples enlist the help of a trusted planner to guide them through these difficult conversations. Experienced planners have waded in these deep waters many times before, and they can help you identify creative solutions to move forward.

Through WSC’s partnership with Barnabas Foundation, you have direct access to this kind of trusted planning support. At no cost to you, you can speak with someone who not only understands the tax-wise options available, but who also approaches planning from a values-driven, God-honoring perspective.