Life is Fragile
If we were honest, even our best planning is overlooking something. That can create a sense of paralysis and keep us from doing anything. This is true when it comes to buying a car, building a house, preparing a meal for friends, or planning a vacation. Sadly, this is also true when it comes to weighty matters like planning for disability, loss of memory, caring for family, natural disasters and the ultimate unknown: death. Death isn’t a maybe, it is a certainty. Of course, there are physical, financial and spiritual dimensions to the certainty of death.
First the Spiritual Dimension
I wouldn’t be doing you a service if I focused on the physical and financial dimensions first. You might skip this section, thinking it isn’t important. Let me suggest that you don’t skip or ignore this dimension. I will be brief, but cover the realities God has stated in His Word. 1) He is holy and just. 2) You are not – you are a sinner. 3) God has declared that the soul that sins will die. 4) There are physical and spiritual dimensions to this death notice. 5) God did not leave us without a hope for righteousness and life everlasting. 6) Jesus declared that he was the Way, Truth, Life and the Resurrection and the Life. I won’t say more, but if you have questions, please ask. Let me challenge you to read John’s Gospel and Paul’s book to the Romans. JOHN ROMANS
The Physical Dimension
You may not think it is going to happen to you, but there is a good possibility that you might not be thinking clearly when you get older. That might happen at any time. You might reach age 90 with a sharp mind or you might barely be 50 when your mind starts to fail in some tragic ways. There are prudent things the wise person can do to prepare. One way to prepare is to eat good food, exercise and take care of your body. Feed your mind with good things from both the scriptures and other good books. Foster right thinking by reading things that challenge your suppositions and superstitions.
Permissions and Tools
But a second thing you should do is to give others both permission and the legal right to help you with decisions. This includes creating Power of Attorney (POA) documents to give the person(s) of your choice the ability to help you with health and financial decisions as you age. Even if you have little wealth, having someone help you navigate the difficult road of aging can be a huge blessing. This is not just a help for you. It helps your loved ones by giving them tools to help you that they otherwise could not use. For example, if you need to enroll in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, and you don’t have the ability to fill out the forms, a POA can do these things for you.
The Financial Dimension
A Will is Foundational
When it comes to death, having an up-to-date will is foundational and fundamental. When you are dead, you cannot make decisions or issue directives. A will gives someone of your choosing the ability to settle your estate. I can’t think of any circumstances where a will is a waste of time or money. Far too many die intestate. (Intestate is late Middle English: from Latin intestatus, from in- ‘not’ + testatus ‘testified, witness’.) You have an estate. An estate is all your wealth regardless of type, that is in your name or possession at your death. So don’t leave your estate intestate.
The next layer might be a Trust
Fidelity Investments provides nine helpful reasons for considering a trust after you have done the basics with POA and a will. Is a trust free? Of course not. But it is another good tool for many reasons. The nine reasons in Fidelity’s article were: Control, protection, privacy and probate savings, state estate and inheritance taxes, incapacity planning, charitable giving, life insurance ownership, special needs planning, and large retirement account balances.
Privacy and Probate Savings
One that applies to everyone: if for no other reason than your privacy and the privacy of your family, a trust can address many issues that normally have to go through the public court systems after you die. There are costs and delays associated with probate. Therefore, Cindie and I have a trust called the Winquist Revocable Trust. It is revocable in that we can terminate it if we are both alive. It is not something that has to remain the same. Our trust has been amended after we were further down our pathway in life.
Things that are in the trust include our home, our vehicles, our bank accounts, and our Fidelity Investments brokerage accounts. IRA’s and Roth IRA’s are not in the trust. They are set up with beneficiary designations. Most of our assets, therefore, do not go through probate. The activity in the trust will not be a public matter.
Pick Reliable Responsible Trustees
A trustee can be an organization. In our case, we determined it was better to designate individuals as our trustees. While we are living, Cindie and I are the primary trustees. The successor trustees are our daughter and our son. They are reliable, wise, and responsible adults. Therefore, we have no concerns as to them making prudent and honest decisions regarding our wishes.
Some Final Thoughts for Christians: Remember God’s Promises
If you are a believer and follower of Jesus, John Piper wisely says this about our lives: “When something drops into your life that seems to threaten your future, remember this: The first shock waves of the bomb are not sin. The real danger is yielding to them. Giving in. Putting up no spiritual fight. And the root of that surrender is unbelief — a failure to fight for faith in future grace. A failure to cherish all that God promises to be for us in Jesus.
Jesus shows us another way. Not painless, and not passive. Follow him. Find your trusted spiritual friends. Open your soul to them. Ask them to watch with you and pray. Pour out your soul to the Father. Rest in the sovereign wisdom of God. And fix your eyes on the joy set before you in the precious and magnificent promises of God.”
Here is the link to the helpful Fidelity Investments Viewpoints article “Reasons To Consider a Trust.”