By: Laurie Valentine- COO & Trust Counsel
A Christian estate plan is one you develop by determining God’s purposes for how your assets should pass at your death and for how your finances would be managed and decisions would be made for you if you became incapacitated during your lifetime.
To accomplish God’s purposes regarding how your assets will pass at death you need a written plan---a will or will and revocable living trust----that directs how your probate estate (individually-owned assets and amounts payable to your estate or executor at your death) will pass.
Fine-tuning your written distribution plan can be accomplished with specific bequests of designated amounts or assets to specific charitable or individual beneficiaries. You may also need to make special provision for the management of the shares of your estate passing to young beneficiaries or incapacitated beneficiaries by including testamentary trust provisions in your will.
Coordinate life insurance and retirement plan beneficiary designations with the distribution plan in your will or trust.
You also need to review the way in which your assets are titled. Assets titled as joint tenants with rights of survivorship do not pass under your will; they pass to the surviving joint owner. Likewise, beneficiary-designated assets pass to the named beneficiary, not per your will. The result could be an uncoordinated plan of asset distribution at death.
God’s purposes for asset management in the event you become incapacitated as the result of a stroke, an accident or illness may be accomplished by executing a durable power of attorney. Using a durable power of attorney allows you to empower someone of your choosing to make decisions for you and manage your finances if you become incapacitated in the future.
A revocable living trust can also provide a mechanism for management of assets in the event of incapacity, as well as distribution at death without probate.
To assure the appropriate person(s) have authority to make healthcare decisions for you, if you are incapacitated, a Healthcare Surrogate Designation should be considered. You may also determine that you want to put in writing your desires regarding life-prolonging medical procedures in the event of a terminal condition by executing a living will directive.
Estate planning is an important part of every Christian’s financial stewardship responsibilities.
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The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.