Monday, April 28, 2014

Where There's a Will, There's a Way!

By David S. Bell 

During this past month, I have been leading a number of estate and gift planning seminars in churches. As I have spoken with individuals after each of these presentations, I am convinced more than ever that people, in general, are procrastinators when it comes to estate planning. According to a 2010 survey by Lawyers.com, two-thirds of Americans have no will. I believe it! Repeatedly, people approach me after these seminars to admit embarrassingly that they have no estate plan – no advance directives, no last will and testament. I have meet elderly widows, single parents, middle-aged couples, parents of young children, senior adults – all of them with no will. Are you among them? Then, read on.

People often assume that if they are not wealthy, they do not need a will. They consider creating an estate plan to be an unnecessary expense. In essence, everyone does have a will – either by design or by default. Either you have taken the time to design a proper will and specify the eventual distribution of your property or you are relying on the impersonal state laws that define how assets are to be distributed when no will exists.

So, what are the consequences of not having a will? The probate court appoints an administrator of your estate, names guardians for surviving minor children, and disperses your property. The court will oversee many other provisions that are enforceable in the absence of a will. Estate administration costs are normally higher for probated estates without a will.

  • A will actually encourages good stewardship. Using your will power encourages you to be a steward of your assets
  • A will is one of the only ways to convey your personal wishes for distributing your property to loved ones
  • A will permits you to select a personal representative in whom you have confidence
  • A will gives you the opportunity to name the guardians of your children
  • A will leads to a more efficient process with the probate court and Internal Revenue Service
  • A will allows you to name specific beneficiaries, including your family, your church, and other charitable organizations
  • A will enables you to choose your own trustee or qualified organization to oversee the financial management of your estate.

While a will is a fundamental document, several other documents might be considered as primary components of an estate plan. These documents may include: a living will with a patient advocate designation and an authorization under HIPAA, a durable power of attorney, a letter of instruction, a living or revocable trust, and life and long-term care insurance.

A charitable gift to your church or other church-related ministry may also be included in your will. Charitable gifts made upon death are the most popular type of gift from accumulated assets. These gifts are often referred to as "bequests." They are so popular because a bequest gives you the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy while retaining full use of your property during your life.

If you would like to ask basic questions about estate planning or if you are interesting in learning more about planned charitable gifts, please feel free to contact us. And, most importantly, if you do not have a will, I urge you to establish one for the sake of those whom you love.


David S. Bell is the President and Executive Director of the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. David has a keen understanding of current economic and consumer trends impacting charitable giving, which he gained through experience as a pastor, development director, and national church leader. David is Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and active member of The Alban Institute, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Christian Leadership Alliance, and the National Association of Church Business Administrators. David graduated from Drew Theological School and holds a BA in Religious Studies and Secondary Education from The College of Wooster. David and his wife, Ethel, have two children and reside in Brighton, Michigan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Personal Spending Plans

By David S. Bell

A personal spending plan is a fundamental tool that enables individuals to control money; rather than be controlled by it! A spending plan further enables people to help reach their financial goals and live out their values and priorities. Less than half of most families have adopted a personal spending plan or “family budget.”

As a result, many families are uncertain about their own personal spending habits. They simply know that funds are diminished by the end of the pay period. In fact, all too often the paycheck is spent long before more income arrives. This habit leads to increased consumer debt and family dysfunction. More and more Americans are driven by the pretense of obtaining ultimate contentment, joy, and peace through purchasing power and the acquisition of the next popular consumer fad. In contrast to this cultural pull, biblical teaching calls us to establish giving as our first financial priority – not funding our hyperconsumer-driven lifestyle.

Stewardship of financial resources lies at the heart of Christian discipleship. The failure of the church to articulate a biblical perspective on money and possessions yields to the seductive messages of rampant hyperconsumerism in our culture. The failure to address the topic of money and consumerism is an act of self-marginalization by the church. Many churches only address the issue of money during an annual financial campaign. The end result of this practice is the congregational perception that church leaders ask for money only to sustain the church budget. This perception undercuts biblical stewardship and often creates an attitude of scarcity.

The Good $ense Ministry resources can be utilized to teach, train, support and encourage your congregation in the core value of biblical stewardship. The resources can be used as their own ministry system or in conjunction with other stewardship resources.

Good $ense Ministry resources benefit the local church and its members in a variety of ways:
  • They support the pastor and staff in what is often felt to be a difficult ministry area
  • They assist individuals in removing money as a barrier to full devotion to Christ
  • They lead individuals into God-honoring management of their resources and a resultant joy, peace, contentment and freedom that brings
  • They free individuals from the bondage of consumer debt
  • They restore relationships torn by conflict over money
  • They create a stewardship culture of generosity that assures the resources necessary for the church to reach its redemptive potential
 As you plan for effective year-round stewardship, consider offering a Good $ense Ministry Budget Course. The course contrasts the cultural messages of money with the biblical teaching about money. Five major areas of money are addressed: earning, giving, saving, debt, and spending. Now is an excellent time to begin planning for this course. Often people are more motivated to participate in a workshop on personal spending plans during January and February because of experiencing the financial implications of holiday shopping.


David S. Bell is the President and Executive Director of the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. David has a keen understanding of current economic and consumer trends impacting charitable giving, which he gained through experience as a pastor, development director, and national church leader. David is Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center and active member of The Alban Institute, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Christian Leadership Alliance, and the National Association of Church Business Administrators. David graduated from Drew Theological School and holds a BA in Religious Studies and Secondary Education from The College of Wooster. David and his wife, Ethel, have two children and reside in Brighton, Michigan.

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