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The importance of family involvement in legacy planning

Photo of Hannah Gibney Hannah Gibney
3 min

 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:20-21 (NIV)

For too many, the most generous act of their entire existence occurs on their death and is often a surprise to those left behind.

Typically we spend 40 years building wealth, 20 years preserving it in retirement and all too little time preparing for it to be passed on when we are gone.

A great deal of charitable giving is now done by way of legacies alongside the bequests to family and friends. Many charities dedicate significant effort to securing these legacies from donors; it seems sad that those making such great gifts so seldom see their fruits.

Is there a more Christian way to think about this; and to live out biblical generosity through our lives, leaving a deeper legacy than money alone?

We spend much of our lives dedicated to the growth and preservation of our family’s wealth. We work hard, plan well and steward carefully to bring wealth into our family as, we hope, an entirely positive force.

However, as wealth becomes significant there are traps that one might fall into that can, in the end, erode the very things that motivated us in the first place and so create upset, tension and breakdown in families.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil

1 Timothy 6:10 (Emphasis added)

When dealing with our children, mismatched expectations or an ill-prepared heir can be overwhelmed by a sudden fortune.

An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.

Proverbs 20:21

In light of this Proverb, we have three suggestions to avoid the spiritual pitfalls of family wealth:

  1. Clarify your values and beliefs about wealth and align these to God’s word.

  2. Communicate these with your family through discussion and documents.

  3. Commit to practically live out these values by aligning action with belief.

Perhaps, plan a family meeting each year to give thanks, appropriately share important information with discernment and align your family’s financial priorities. The reading of the will then becomes a final consummation of a longstanding, well-built bond of trust and understanding.

As Christians, our aim in discipling and apprenticing our successors should be to clarify and communicate our heart to steward the wealth God has bestowed on us, because we know that:

From Him and through Him and to Him are all things …

Romans 11:36.

Within this family philosophy, we allow each member within our interdependent family group to live out their own calling from God within this overall.

We are called to fix our eyes on the eternal, so an important part of this dialogue is the family’s attitude to generosity and contributions to God’s Kingdom. A well-developed philanthropic life will lead to true joy.

At Stewardship we meet many families wrestling with the issues of how much is enough? How much should we leave our children? How much should we give to the Kingdom? No two families are alike; but what we can say is that those who have taken the steps of clarification, communication and commitment to create strong foundations for their families are much closer to living in the fullness of God’s abounding joy.

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Written by

Hannah Gibney

Hannah joined the Philanthropy Services Team in 2019 to help reach out to new and emerging philanthropists. Her previous roles have been in the Christian and secular spheres and she is passionate about seeing people released into the fullness that God has for them.

She loves working in a team where its primary aim is to help people experience freedom through generosity.

She lives and worships in Bristol at Christ Church Clifton and is concerned about Justice and Children and Youth.