FIRST-PERSON: Planning for the future
EDITORS' NOTE: Baptist Press is carrying a column by Larry Burkett each day this week in honor of his longstanding financial ministry. Burkett, a BP columnist for two years, died July 4. He was the founder of Christian Financial Concepts, now merged with Crown Financial Ministries in Gainesville, Ga.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)--God's Word does not promise (or even suggest) that He is going to satisfy every whim and desire we might have. But He does promise to meet our needs and then provide an abundance so that we can help others.
When that abundance is provided for you, those to whom God leads you should determine who you help. It may be someone who can't make ends meet because of low income or the burden of unexpected medical expenses. Perhaps God has used ministries or missionaries in your life, and now you have the opportunity to help them.
Unfortunately, sometimes the surpluses that God provides for you are not available to help others because they were used to pay for things you thought you needed but actually were not real needs at all.
If you're a parent, when God provides for you He certainly expects you to provide for your family. "If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).
Also, God doesn't limit providing for your family to your lifetime; it extends beyond your death.
Prepare for the unexpected
None of us likes to think that we won't be around to see and enjoy our grandchildren, but the reality is that we have no guarantees of tomorrow for life on this earth. All parents want to see their children mature, but some of us will not.
Over the years, I have become aware of countless families in which unexpected death created great financial difficulty, simply because there was no plan for the future. In almost every case of financial difficulty, it was the result of having no will. Why? Because the head of the family thought he or she was too young to have a will. Or, even if a will did exist, often it was very inadequate and not current.
Every Christian should have a will
In the Bible, a steward is someone who manages the possessions of someone else. God expects every Christian to be a good steward of the possessions He has entrusted to him or her. And, preparing a will is a vital part of being a good manager.
The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines a will as "a legal declaration of a person's wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death; especially: a written instrument legally executed by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death."
As a Christian you should be aware that everything you possess belongs to someone else: God. You and I are simply stewards -- managers -- of our lives, time, possessions and our families. And, as a Christian, you should have a will.
A Consumer Reports magazine poll taken a few years ago indicated that only 30 percent of Americans who die have wills. The other 70 percent (does this include you?) don't realize that without a will the state in which you reside when you die decides how your assets will be distributed.
One thing is certain, the decisions the state makes for your family and your assets will not be the same choices you would (and should) have made.
Another way to protect your family's assets
For some people, a trust is another instrument that can be used to distribute assets after death. However, a trust is certainly not for everyone, and a thorough understanding of wills and trusts is vital to any estate planning.
In most states you can draft your own will without the help of an attorney. However, the relatively small fee an attorney might charge to prepare a will or help set up a trust can save thousands of dollars and lots of headaches later on.
Some of us think of an "estate" as a place where wealthy people live. However, the word estate simply defines your assets. Many benefits are available by establishing a trust to handle an estate. But, although wills and trusts are available to everyone, a trust may not be practical for your situation.
Your circumstances and your family's determine whether a will or trust is best for you. The choice is definitely a personal one, but it is an important choice that everyone should make.
Insurance is important for a person with a family
Insurance provides a method that allows you to pay a little now to cover major future expenses due to illness, death, accident, theft and so forth.
However, some people use insurance to protect against every possible contingency imaginable. Sad to say, insurance can lead to depending on insurance rather than trusting God. Before talking to an insurance agent, be sure you understand the types of insurance that are available, what they cover, what you really need and what you can really afford.
Even though insurance is never mentioned in the Bible, the principle of providing for the future certainly is. "A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty" (Proverbs 27:12).
I recommend that you ask your pastor or another trusted Christian friend to give you some recommendations regarding insurance agents they know. Then, prayerfully and carefully do some research on both the agent and the company before you choose. It might take you some time and effort to do this, but it can result in great benefit to you and your family.
Plan today for your family's tomorrow
Neglecting to talk about something doesn't make it go away. And most of us don't really like to talk about death, so we often avoid making appropriate decisions about wills, trusts or insurance.
Talking about death won't make it happen any sooner, but not talking about it and failing to prepare for your loved ones with a will, trust or insurance could result in real problems for your spouse and children. The emotional pressures placed on family members at the time of death can be significantly lessened when a will or trust is in effect and adequate life insurance has been provided.
Are you planning for the future? Isn't it about time you planned for your family's tomorrow?