Estate Planning vs Legacy Planning

Estate Planning vs Legacy Planning

I have been very intrigued by the content in this month’s Kingdom Advisor’s study group centring around legacy and the importance of having an impact beyond my lifetime. Everyone was challenged with the difference between estate planning and legacy planning. In particular, legacy planning not only represents a change in terminology, but it changes the lens through which we see things. Specifically, estate planning has a one-generational focus (transferring wealth to your heirs) while legacy planning looks to impact 5-7 generations (transferring values to multiple generations). That requires a bigger vision and a broader perspective than advisors or clients typically focus on.

Financial professionals are uniquely positioned to invest in the lives of clients. I know as an advisor my discussions focused more on Estate/Wealth Planning rather than Legacy Planning, so this study stretched me to expand my thinking.

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My parents are presently visiting with us and this past weekend our son and grandson visited, so we had four generations in our home. My Dad shared stories with us about how his faith and relationship with God were developed as a young minister and also the impact his own father had upon that faith. Most of these stories I had heard before but my son and daughter-in-law listened intently while baby Ernest slept through it all. I thought how important this time was and wondered if generations yet unborn would benefit from hearing the same stories. To see how God was active in the lives of my parents and grandparents helps to inspire my faith so I am sure it can impact others.

4generationsThink about the business of family for a moment – isn’t it truly about legacy planning?

I will teach you hidden lessons from our past–stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them–even the children not yet born–and they in turn will teach their own children. Psalm 78:2-6

These verses instruct families specifically to focus on legacy planning which is clearly beyond one generation. I encouraged my Dad to write these things down so the events of his life could be passed on to the children not yet born. That way, his life reaches beyond his years lived on this earth. Many people may feel estate planning is just for those who have wealth, but legacy planning is for everyone.

Ron Blue provides some excellent advice in his book “Splitting Heirs,” when he describes the “Wisdom Principle” which is to “transfer wisdom before wealth. Wealth never creates wisdom. Wisdom may create wealth.” If you think about it “wealth” is the focus of estate planning, while “wisdom” is the focus of legacy planning.

We need to think deeper about the time we are each given. We all have 24 hours per day, and 168 hours per week. On the topic of stewardship Ken Boa says,

“What differentiates people isn’t the amount of time available to them, but the manner in which they exercise their gifts and talents within the available time. We can waste time; we can spend time; or we can invest our time wisely. That’s what stewardship is about: faithfully developing and using our gifts, talents and resources within the amount of time God has allotted to us.”

We have time in an equal measure, but we must be intentional about how we spend it or invest it. The fact is that we often just spend our time when we should be investing it.  Talents are not in equal measure to everyone. We are unique and each has different gifts. Our focus tends to be more about using these gifts to grow wealth and much less  about the growth of our heirs.

Thinking beyond our life can be very challenging because it stretches us outside of our normal pattern of thought. Maybe our perspective needs an adjustment so we consider more the impact we can have upon “the children not yet born.” That takes intentionality and a shift of focus. Our efforts must move toward transferring our values and wisdom  as a guide to govern future generations and less effort on accumulating and transferring wealth. It seems if we get the legacy planning right, the estate planning will be so much easier.

The accumulation and eventual transfer of wealth is a major part of financial planning. If we fail to give proper attention to the legacy planning, we have truly missed the reason that we were entrusted with the wealth in the first place.

Are we spending our time creating something that will only benefit one generation? Can we be more intentional in our investment of time and leave a legacy that extends 5-7 generations?

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Far too often we can let little things slide but recently I read an article titled “Never Walk by a Mistake.” It served as a good reminder of the importance of correcting even what seems like a small thing.

walk-byGeneral Ann Dunwoody was walking down the street when she saw a soldier in uniform walking with his hands in his pockets. Anyone who’s spent time in the military knows that this is a big no-no. Dunwoody could have literally walked by the mistake and not addressed it. It’s something small, it wasn’t impacting anyone at the time, and the kid probably just forgot. It wasn’t anything overtly heinous. As a general, though, she knew that if she didn’t correct the error, she would be, by the sin of omission, setting a new lower standard for that soldier. So rather than letting it slide, she approached him, kindly addressed the problem (rather than yelling at and demeaning the young guy), and reinforced the ideas of discipline and attention to detail.

Here is what intrigues me: by not correcting the error, we are actually setting a lower standard, which is obviously not acceptable.  After reading  an article by Jerry Bowyer entitled “Are Christians Allowed to Get Rich?” I saw that there is a standard set for Christian business owners and there are at least two mistakes that lower that standard:

  1. Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
  2. Not Understanding You are a Steward, not the Owner

1. Purpose & Calling

Typically, when we speak of  “calling,” business owners are not the first to come to our mind. We tend to immediately think of those with a more sacred calling, like pastors or missionaries.  David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby is “the son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries.”  Like many Christian business owners, “David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.” When he would talk excitedly about his business, his saintly mother would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” Obviously his mother meant well, but had a limited understanding of God’s calling.

work-is-our-calling-400We usually make the same mistake when we categorize our work (or business) as secular, separating it from the sacred (calling). Rather than sensing the pleasure of God  through our work, we often consider our work less than God’s calling. It seems that David Green felt like a black sheep because the rest of his family were “ministers” while he was in business. However, when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7) and can fulfill the call God has placed on our lives. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23).

In time, David Green discovered that God can use a merchant just as well as He can a pastor. It seems that business was his purpose and calling after all and was a means of engaging in the great commission. I love what he said in the interview with Jerry Bowyer: So I believe I have a calling on my life; I think we all can, no matter where we are, be anointed. I sense God’s anointing on my life as a businessman.

2. A Steward, Not an Owner

It would certainly be valuable to listen to the audio interview with David Green as he provides insight on how Hobby Lobby endeavours to incorporate biblical principles into its business. He speaks about the importance of avoiding long term debt and he says, “We go into debt when we think God isn’t moving fast enough,” which identifies our lack of contentment.

DGreenThe part that I found most interesting is the corporate structure of Hobby Lobby, where the shares are owned by a trust rather than by family members. This speaks to the fact that the Green’s are stewards of the company and the corporation is actually held in trust. This means if the company was to be sold, 90% of the value would go to a foundation and subsequently distributed to the Lord’s work. Typically, a business is passed down to the next generation, then the next, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, the family cannot actually touch the assets. Since these assets are seen as under God’s ownership, the corporate structure reflects that and is actually referred to as a “stewardship trust.” 

God owns it all, like Psalm 24:1 clearly states, is a statement Christians agree with in principle but despite this knowledge, we often live like we are the owners.

If you are a Christian business owner or a Christian financial advisor, accountant or lawyer directing business owners, please listen to the audio recording for just 10 minutes (start from 14 minutes to 24 minutes).  It is easy for Christian business owners and Christian financial professionals to be “conformed to the world” when it comes to business structure and advice. What I heard is transformational because it is based on biblical principles.  If we choose to ignore these principles, we are setting a lower standard than has been laid out for us.  Does the legal structure of your business align with your theological structure? Does the corporate structure represent the interest of the steward or the interest of the owner?

 

 

The Family Meeting After 30 Years

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThis past month, Cathy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. Over the years, we have gathered the family together for a specific purpose but in October, we had a meeting that focused on inheritance. This idea came from a book by Thomas Deans called Willing Wisdom, where he suggested a family should have this type of meeting every year. I saw this intentional time as an opportunity to pass wisdom to my heirs before the time of any type of wealth transfer.

It felt a little awkward at first and I figured that my kids would just see this as another of Dad’s crazy ideas. I have heard it said it is inevitable that there will be a family meeting where your financial affairs are discussed. However, it is up to you whether you will be alive to attend. I have determined to be there; the discussion time is valuable and the conversation will deepen if this happens yearly.

To begin, everyone was asked to share a word to describe our family and then an example of why that word was chosen. The answers received are a testament of our family dynamic: fun-loving, unique (in family discussions), accepting (it is ok if we disagree), supportive (of each other), in tune (connected to each other) and confident. Hearing these words was encouraging and a result of our investing in the lives of our children. It was like a reward for 30 years of marriage but we are not done yet. We must continue the family communication in order to finish well what we have started.

Keith Costello, president and CEO of the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning (CIFP) recently wrote about the great wealth transfer. He stated, “Baby boomers will inherit $750 billion over the next several years in the largest-ever transfer of wealth in Canada, estimates a recent report from Toronto-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). Specifically, the report suggests that 2.5 million Canadians over the age of 75 have a total net worth of $900 billion or more — and the beneficiaries of this wealth will be Canadians aged between 50 and 75 years old.”

The most common approach for wealth transfer is to divide the inheritance equally among heirs but the challenge is to also ensure an appropriate distribution of wisdom to equip our heirs to properly manage this wealth. I recently spoke to some friends about my children having grown and matured. With sarcasm, I stated, “They grew up to have their own opinions that are not the same as mine.” The reality about our children is they will likely have different priorities than their parents, which is the reason family meetings are so important. Finishing well involves successful transfer of wisdom before any wealth transfer.

As a steward of all that has been entrusted to me, I feel responsible to prepare the next stewards to manage anything I may leave them. An annual family meeting where probing questions are posed can help the next generation connect with the values and plans that guide financial decisions.

Some examples of questions that will create discussion and reveal values are:

-What are your dreams? How would receiving an inheritance impact your dreams?

-What did you learn from your parents about money and generosity?

-How should each child be treated: equally or uniquely?

 

Leaving An Inheritance

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As my wife and I went for a walk last evening, we spoke of our grandparents (all now deceased) and then our great-grandparents. In particular, we spoke of how little we know beyond two generations. We then talked about our grandchildren (not yet born) and great-grandchildren, wondering how much impact we will have on them.

Proverbs says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”

On this subject, Larry Burkett wrote this: “If I had to identify the area of Christian finances that is least understood, it would be inheritance. Not only do people wreck their lives by hoarding, but they also wreck the lives of their children and grandchildren with abundant inheritance.”

In ancient times, an inheritance was often necessary for survival. Land being passed down was essential to provide food for the family. Today, an inheritance can be like winning the lottery or a windfall because, in many cases, children are making more money than their parents ever did and are often financially independent.

Ron Blue said, “Wealth never creates wisdom. Wisdom may create wealth. If you pass wisdom to your children, you probably can pass wealth to them. If they have enough wisdom, then they may not need your wealth.”

When we think about inheritance, we usually think wealth. In considering wealth and wisdom, which offers the most value? And which is most difficult to pass to the next generation? Since wisdom can create wealth, it seems logical that it is more valuable than wealth itself. Since wealth without wisdom has the ability to wreck the lives of our heirs, we must consider how best to pass on wisdom prior to passing on wealth.

All of our adult children are planning to be home for the Thanksgiving weekend. They will enjoy Mom’s home cooked meals and endure my Dad jokes while we play games, have a bike ride and go for a beautiful fall walk through the park. I cherish these times together, not just to make fond memories, but I am realizing these times are occasions for discussions where wisdom can be shared. So I am going to be deliberate and intentional about a family meeting in order to learn more about the basis of our values.

Having worked in the financial industry for 25 years, I know the conversation about finances is personal and private, yet these dialogues are so essential. I have some specific questions to ask that will probe deep into the hearts and minds of all of us. I plan to share these questions and the importance of a family meeting in my next blog.

Will you spend this long weekend with your family? What important discussions will you have with those you love?