A campfire can be a comforting source of warmth… but if used improperly or irresponsibly, it could cause a horrible forest fire that destroys all in its wake. Our wealth is the same when it comes to inheritance. There is a real danger that exists with most families of means. If you do not carefully think through the inheritance amount and how you give it – your children could be ruined. As Believers, we also need to recognize that if God owns everything – and we are merely stewards of what we have, so we need to ask: ”How is the wealth that is transferred to our kids going to further the Kingdom?”
Solomon had a lot to say about this, being one of the wealthiest men of all time. He said in Proverbs 20:21, “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” Meaning an heir not prepared for their inheritance will prove to be a curse and not a blessing in the end. In Proverbs 17:16 he says, “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool since he has no desire to get wisdom.”
The solution to this hasty inheritance is found in Ecclesiastes 7:11, “Wisdom along with an inheritance is good and an advantage to those who see the sun.” If you choose to give your children an inheritance, make sure it is accompanied by wisdom to know what to do with it and make sure that they have a Kingdom mindset.
Solomon at the end of his life bemoaned the fact that he labored to be rich and now has to give all that wealth to someone who has not labored for it. He called that a great evil in Ecclesiastes 2:21. So we are called to give our children wisdom with the wealth or no wealth at all. It is interesting to note that if you give your children wisdom, you probably don’t need to give them wealth. Sadly, most parents have concluded it is easier to set up trusts than it is to attempt to impart practical and biblical wisdom.
Below are three steps to inheritance planning that can truly transform what you do with your wealth and the impact it will have on the Kingdom and raising Godly children. This is how you convert an inheritance into a family legacy.
Step #1: Discern Your View of an Inheritance
Ask yourself this question: Is an inheritance an inherent right or an unearned privilege? Do children of wealthy parents have an inherent right to an inheritance by the simple fact that they were born into it? Furthermore, if they did receive an inheritance they didn’t work for, would it be a privilege or an unexpected blessing? This question is one of the most fundamentally important questions that you as a parent can ask.
Step #2: Determine the Purpose of the Inheritance
Do you want your children’s inheritance to fund lifestyle or opportunity? Do you want to provide them with income for a certain lifestyle for life or do you want to fund a greater opportunity in life? Do you want to assist them along their way or do you want to carry them along their way?
These questions are critical because they address two vital issues: the amount and the timing of an inheritance.
Do you want to help them:
- Get a good start in life
- Help them with college
- Get their first house
- Get a business started
- Help send their kids to a private Christian school?
Then you will need to release some of their inheritance while you are living. The above needs come earlier in life, not when parents typically eternally relocate at 85 and the children are 60. By then it merely supplements their retirement.
Step #3: Calculate the Timing and the Amount of an Inheritance
After 34 years of helping families plan their inheritance and family legacies, I have found a number of purposes for why inheritances are given and have an impact. You will likely want to do this exercise for each child since the needs, abilities and maturity of each heir will likely be different. God does not tell us to give each child the same inheritance or in the same way. What may be good for one may be bad for another.
Below is a list of the ideas for Opportunity Inheritance
- Receive the family business
- Funds available for new business start up
- Receive funds for a first home (down payment or pay off mortgage)
- Receive funds to establish an emergency reserve
- Receive funds for tuition for all or part of children and grandchildren Education
- Receive funds for increased charitable giving
- Receive funds to help with retirement
- Receive funds for work that needs to be done on their home
- Receive funds for a family vacation
Did this three-step drill challenge how your current plan is set up? If so, I encourage you to take steps immediately to align your plan with the outcome you wish to see for your children and the Kingdom of God.
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.