I Am Not Leaving an Inheritance

In my investment company, I’ve spent my life counseling the top 1% and 10% of income earners and wealth holders in the US. Many of them have so much wealth that neither they nor their spouse will ever be able to spend it all, so they leave it behind. It’s just another day at the office when a professing Christian leaves 100% of their wealth to their children and neglects to give any towards the kingdom to come.

Many of my clients feel strongly about their church and the gospel, yet when I propose they leave the majority of their estate to charity, the recommendation falls on deaf ears. They feel that it’s culturally acceptable and expected to leave all their money behind to family, so they balk when I suggest giving it away. What’s ironic is that this will be one decision in your life that you can have no fear you’ll ever have to explain because you won’t be here to do so.

It’s my view that it’s unbiblical to leave a large inheritance behind for your children and grandchildren. I personally will not be doing so. Let me tell you why: There’s an epidemic in today’s church, and it’s a lack of faith exposed by our lack of giving.

I’m personally not leaving behind a large inheritance because I want to prioritize leaving a spiritual legacy. Ultimately, what is the best inheritance? Faith. Psalm 78:6-7 says that God gave us his Word, “that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”

We have a clear responsibility and mandate from God here.

It’s not our pastor’s job or youth pastor’s job or the job of the children’s ministry director to share the Gospel with our kids and disciple them, but it’s ours. I’m sure one of your deepest desires for your children and grandchildren is that they know and follow Christ. These verses are saying that the next generation’s faith isn’t going to happen automatically. It’s not guaranteed. Think about that for a minute. The only way the Gospel transfers to the next generation is if we teach it to our children and live it out in front of them in every area of our lives, including our finances. That includes our estate planning.

What better way to model sacrificial giving to your children than to give part or all of your estate to gospel ministries, local churches, and charities that are close to your heart?  Let your last will and testament show your love for your children and grandchildren with a small gift and extra words to share how you feel about them. But let your money display and model to them what to cherish in this life. Show them that the Gospel is to be cherished as it goes to help translate the Word into new languages—not money to be cherished as it goes towards their first-class airline tickets. I’ve also seen over and over where handing over a large windfall all at once can do more harm than good. One study found that one third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of the event.

Let me challenge you: What if you gave 90% of your estate away? Or at least 10%? If you haven’t already, I encourage you to update your estate and will to include generosity. Show your children and grandchildren that what’s important isn’t being wealthy in this life, but storing up eternal treasures in the life to come. There is no better or lasting legacy than that.

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