You have an estate plan. Everyone does. But if you haven’t been proactive, your plan may be quite different from what you want.
“Is your plan one that expresses your wishes for your estate, or is it one that was written by the State of Missouri for you?” said David Atkins, executive director of the Missouri United Methodist Foundation. “With just a little planning, you can save money, time, grief and headaches for your loved ones – and you can make a positive difference with a gift to your church.”
There are many different ways a church can be named as a beneficiary in a Will or Trust document, including a gift of a specific asset, a specific amount of money, or a gift of a percentage of one’s estate. The church can be named as the “residuary” beneficiary to receive what is left in the estate after all other provisions are completed. It’s possible to create an endowment for a church so that a person’s annual pledge continues forever after the person is gone.
“People often have so much on their mind when creating their estate plan that the church gets lost in the shuffle,” Atkins said. “Someone might think about leaving money to their university, but not consider how that money could have also been used to set up a scholarship fund for their church.”
Endowments may seem too complicated for some churches, “but that’s where the Foundation can really help with expertise and a structure to provide long-term continuity,” explained Atkins. “Pastors change, local church boards of trustees change, but the Foundation is built to provide a reliable mechanism for local churches to ensure things don’t get dropped or forgotten as time moves on,” Atkins said.
The Foundation office is in Columbia, and its staff works with churches and with donors to set up endowments and other planned gift arrangements. The Foundation also conducts free estate and gift planning workshops in local churches across the state. Popular formats include Saturday morning over donuts and coffee, an after-church luncheon, or as a Sunday school or Wednesday night class.
An inherent irony in estate planning is that plans are being made for an event possibly far in the future, but laws pertaining to the event, especially tax laws, are regularly changed by Congress. “Almost every year there is something new to talk about,” Atkins said.
For more information and resources, visit the Missouri United Methodist Foundation online at www.mumf.org.