Table of Contents
“Making a Will”
Editor's Note: While originally written for a Christian audience, we think Ashley's joyful approach to estate planning will be an inspiration to people whatever their religious beliefs.
Everyone must consider the following question seriously: If I died today, would the distribution of my possessions confirm or contradict the life of faith I have tried to live? Somber stuff, perhaps, but I think writing a will can be an experience of joy, creativity, and satisfaction!
- Making A Will Is Fun. Imagine yourself giving to others everything you own, picking and choosing just what to give each individual or group you want to include. Enjoy giving with abandon, and in ways that witness your love and faith.
- Making A Will Is Good Stewardship. If you do not have a will at the time of your death, the laws of your state of residence will govern the distribution of all that you own. No provisions for charity will be included. Only through a will can you intentionally practice stewardship and make things easier on your family.
- Making A Will Is An Opportunity For Family Closeness. Sharing the terms of your will with your family mobilizes and reveals everyone's values in a new way. The risk of family disagreement may be high, as between children wanting to receive as large a share as possible and parents wanting to disperse their assets outside the family, too. Or spouses may disagree over the dispersal of joint assets. In every instance the greater gift is working through conflict to a mutual understanding of each other's values. The struggle may be painful, but can also create a new depth of relationship to be enjoyed for years to come.
- Making A Will Is Freeing And Brings Satisfaction. Knowing you "ought" to write a will, but never doing it causes underlying tension which is burdensome, energy-draining, and even a source of guilt. Writing a will can release you from this inner conflict. Having basic structures in place brings relief; setting up creative and caring structures brings joy.
How Can I Get Started?
The joy in planning the distribution of your assets can be experienced long before you consult an attorney or other financial advisors. Begin now by undertaking these four preparatory steps: Collection, Imagination, Distribution, and Liberation. These stages will help you become clear on what you own and what you want to do with your assets.
- Collection. Ask yourself: What are my assets? What do I own? In gathering this information, include not only the obvious assets, such as real estate, securities, or bank accounts, but also the special items of sentimental value. View the collection step as a treasure hunt. Our relation to money and possessions is often so secretive that we ourselves are not aware of all we own. Scripture reminds us, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Watch the picture of your heart that is being painted before you.
- Imagination. Knowing what your assets are, imagine what they could become... What could you do with this accumulated property that you will no longer need? The wilder the imagination the better, for these fantasies free your tightly-controlled, business-like mind to see new possibilities. They stir your inner feelings about giving: who might be able to benefit from my gifts, what would it feel like to give this away, what feels "right," and what feels "not quite right?"
- Distribution. Now is the time to make some decisions. Arriving at "what is given where and when" requires a careful time of discernment. Do not be bashful about asking for wisdom. Take regular time to become quiet before God and to listen. Reflect on those persons, or groups, or institutions that have strengthened your faith and helped you become more able to respond to God's grace. Consider, too, the amount of support needed by your dependents at various stages of their lives. If at all possible, talk to your family about their needs, their expectations from you, and your desires for allocating your possessions. Ask some final questions: What will be the effect of the gift? Will it help, or will it hurt? What timing would be appropriate?
- Liberation. The final preparatory step in estate planning is to take a moment to look at the way you have allocated your assets and think about the freedom you have to give these things. Are there any specific cases where giving now rather than after death would be more joyful or helpful? Are there assets you no longer need to hold on to? This step grows more relevant as we grow older and our need for accumulation of possessions decreases. Remember, the joy of sharing the gift now may far surpass the benefit of giving the gift after you are dead. Be open to the possibilities.
Adapted from a pamphlet published by the Ministry of Money (301-428-9560).
- anonymous author
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