Just a few days ago, my wife, Beth, and I finally got around to doing something we had promised ourselves we would do for years. We updated our wills.
It’s only the second time in our married life that we have drawn up wills, and this time around it was quite different. For one thing, our young adult sons are now old enough to play significant, legal roles in matters such as our future healthcare decisions and finances. Frankly, it felt a little sobering this time around to assign those responsibilities to our children rather than our parents.
We also discovered that the people and causes to which we wish to entrust our earthly possessions at life’s end have, at least in some cases, evolved. Our confidence in the effectiveness of some ministries has increased, while in others it has decreased. Even within the ministries we have always planned to support with our estate, we now have more specific causes we want to empower.
But by far the biggest difference in updating our estate plan this time around was in the help we had doing it. This time we had a wonderful tool from the Baptist Foundation of Illinois called the “Life Stewardship Navigator.” And we had the expert help of our friend and BFI Executive Director Doug Morrow.
The Life Stewardship Navigator is simply a do-it-yourself document that walks you through the different types of assets and decisions you need to consider as you form your estate plan. It helped us pull together our records and documents, and talk through key decisions we needed to make as a couple.
With that information in hand, we were ready to sit down with Doug and discuss the best ways to both take care of our family and invest in Christian causes well beyond our lifetimes. Doug called it “taking care of both the kids and the Kingdom.”
With Doug’s office here in Springfield where we live, having that conversation with him personally was easiest for us. But the Foundation also has qualified attorneys all over the state who make it relatively easy for any Illinois Baptist to have that same helpful conversation.
Frankly, the hardest part of the entire process was not filling out the Life Stewardship Navigator, or walking through the paperwork with Doug. The hardest part was simply sitting down as a couple and making some of the biggest decisions of our lives about our life stewardship as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Though we are lifelong tithers and seek to be generous with Kingdom causes beyond our tithe, we realized during this process that our estate plan would far exceed even our lifetimes of weekly giving through our church. What we chose to do with the accumulated wealth of our lives, however large or small that might be, would be our largest single opportunity ever to contribute financially to God’s Kingdom on earth. So prayerfully, thoughtfully, we wrote out a plan that will care for our family, and that will support ministries that advance the Gospel and support Baptist churches and ministries, especially here in our Illinois mission field.
I realize now that the day I sat down with my spouse to outline our estate plan was, in effect, my own personal Memorial Day. It was the day I was able to intentionally choose the values that I want to memorialize my life, and to stand the tests of time and eternity.
I know that my life is about far more than my material possessions. But I also know that where my treasure is, there my heart is also. So I chose to communicate to God that the biggest giving opportunity of my life places His Kingdom as the top priority. We can all do that. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.