Let’s say that you are building a house, and you lay a solid foundation for the house and are ready to start the construction. You have a set of plans that was designed a few years ago and at that time you needed two bedrooms, an office, a roomy living room and kitchen. The construction crew is ready to begin and you decide to review the plans. In a sense, you are going to test what was designed years ago and see if it still applies. Since you designed the plan, you have had another child and your wife has discovered her talents as an artist. While reviewing the plans, you realize that you need another bedroom and a room for your wife to pursue her artwork and you realize the backyard may be too small for the kids. Obviously, your objectives have changed since you originally designed the house.
The same is true for estate planning. Whether it is that your objectives have changed or you never considered certain important elements to the plan or you never created a foundation through a vision statement, it is critically important to analyze and test your current plan with the new objectives created at the writing of your vision statement in the Vision phase of the plan.
Just as a review, there are five phases to a compelling Christian Estate/Legacy Plan: Focus phase, Clarify phase, Focus phase, Implementation phase, and Impact phase. After you have completed the Discovery Retreat in the Vision phase, and have completed a list of objectives, you are ready for the second phase.
The Clarify phase in some circles is called the analysis phase. We call it Clarify, because it clarifies whether your current plan works. Our objective in this phase is to establish where you are in context to where you have been. In this phase of the plan, we gather all legal and financial information with the help of your most trusted advisors: accountants, attorneys, bankers, brokers and planners. Our objective is to create a “current analysis” that clarifies where you are now and how well you are currently satisfying your new objectives and goals and whether you are being a Godly steward of what God has gifted you.
There are three steps to this phase of the plan.
1. Gather and review all legal and financial documentation. Most families that we help have a marginal understanding of what they have. Even if they have spent many months creating their current plan, they, for most part, do not have clarity around the various strategies nor can they explain what is in each trust. So by gathering all the legal documents and the financial statement, we will be able to analyze what they have and how their current plan works and then explain it to them.
It is so important that you test your current plan in light of your new objectives. It is common for us to discover that only 30% of the objectives are actually being addressed in the current plan.
2. The second part of the Clarify phase is bringing in all the advisors. It is in this phase that we contact lawyers, accountants, bankers and any advisors that you have used in the past. It is important that we receive accurate information and that these advisors participate in the remaining phases of the plan. Only then will they understand the purpose of what we have designed and why and have a team that is all on the same page and supporting you in your objectives in the most efficient way.
It is helpful if all of the advisors are Christian. It is very hard for an attorney who is not a Christian to understand Stewardship and the amount of money that we, as Christians, want to give to Kingdom causes because of our understanding that God owns everything and we are simply managing it for him.
3. The third part of this phase is the presentation. When we complete the analysis of all the documents and financials, we create a summary of our findings. This summary is presented to a couple or individual so that they can see the results of the analysis. The presentation is graphic and uses numerous spreadsheets to give clarity to our conclusions.
This may be the most important phase of the plan because it looks under the covers of the current plan to reveal what is needed to better accomplish your objectives. The Vision phase often reveals issues that you want to be addressed but didn’t think about, such as how and what you are giving to your kids so that you do not ruin them and so that, as a Christian steward, you handle the assets God has gifted you the way He would want you to.
Like the design of a house that is outdated, the design for your estate plan may very well be outdated. Your current design, even if done in the past year, may very well be inadequate in how it satisfies your objectives and how it manages to reduce your tax burden. More times than not, this is the case. It might be time to rework your Legacy.
Rico Tice in his book on Evangelism, says, “we are made for another world.” Is your Legacy plan made for another world?
Download this free ebook that will help you understand what’s possible once you discover how to become a better steward by eliminating taxes by focusing on Kingdom causes that will enable you to build an enduring family legacy.
By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring
about significant impact for His Kingdom.