“Creating An Estate Plan” sounds like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to
be difficult. Establishing a plan gives you security for your lifetime, and a sense
of peace that you have planned well for the administration and distribution of the
worldly goods that you leave behind.
You might be surprised to hear that only a small percentage of the population
actually take the time to make a will. A recent study showed that less than half
of US citizens have a will. Like the right to vote, we each have the right to set
forth how our assets will be distributed upon our death, and it’s important that
we exercise this right. When we don’t have a will the state writes one for us, which
basically means that the laws, not our desires, will govern the disposition of our
For couples with children, the focus of an estate plan is generally on providing
for their children. For couples who don’t have children, the focus may be on providing
for other family members. This is important and biblical because God loves the
family. It is a blessing that we can establish our plan in a way that will not only
maximize the financial security for our family, but also convey to them our beliefs
in a way that will honor God.
In addition to many joyful stories of how people have set up estate plans that
honored God, there are also stories of conflict. The need to divide money and property
can escalate animosity and create conflict in many situations. There have been numerous
situations where brothers and sisters fought over the properties that their parents
worked so hard to acquire.
Planning your estate creates a unique opportunity. Rather than establishing
a plan that may lead to litigation, you can seek to establish a plan that witnesses
to the beneficiaries your love of God.
You may have heard of, or you may have what is commonly called a “revocable
living trust.” This type of trust is referred to as a “living” trust because it
takes effect during a person’s lifetime. The most common situation is where the
person who establishes the trust serves as “Trustee” and “Beneficiary” during their
lifetime. That person will manage the trust as trustee and receive the benefits
of the trust while he is alive. In the event that he becomes incapacitated during
his lifetime, the trust instrument states who would serve as successor trustee.
The living trust can act as a “will substitute” in that it can set forth the
beneficiaries. The successor trustee of the living trust could manage and distribute
the remaining assets in the trust to the designated beneficiaries WITHOUT having
to go to court to probate the will. For this reason, living trusts have become
extremely popular in Hawaii because people would like to avoid the expenses and delays
and publicity that are associated with the probate process. The trust is a very
flexible vehicle and can provide for multiple beneficiaries at different time periods.
You might be interested in initially providing for yourself, your spouse, and
your children, but thereafter provide for a charity. This result can be accomplished
in the living trust, but it can also be done through a Charitable Remainder Trust.
This trust is referred to as a Charitable REMAINDER Trust, because the non-charitable
beneficiaries, say children,receive a regular distribution for a designated period,
which can consist of both income and principal, and the charity receives whatever
is remaining in the trust after all payments to the beneficiaries. Because charities
enjoy favorable tax treatment, Charitable Remainder Trusts can be a powerful tax
vehicle. By effectively using the income tax deductions and avoiding capital gains
taxes, the plan can result in a significant gift to charity without reducing the
amount being left to the beneficiaries. For that reason, many refer to Charitable
Remainder Trusts as win-win vehicles because the goal of providing for family and
the goal of providing for a charity can both be met.
There are many other estate planning vehicles an experienced practitioner can
assist you in implementing. Establishing an estate plan that meets your goals is
a privilege and can be a blessing to you and others. The Hawaii Baptist Foundation
encourages you to establish an estate plan and put it down in writing with the help
You should prepare and properly document an estate plan:
1. So you can decide who will be the guardian of minor children should you
die before they are 18.
2. So you can decide who will administer your trust or estate.
3. So you can decide when and how your heirs will receive their inheritance.
4. So you can decide whether to include your Christian testimony.
5. So you can decide whether to include a gift to ministry.
6. So you can take the necessary steps to minimize the arguments and
bad feelings among your children after you are gone.
The Foundation would welcome the opportunity to help you formulate your goals
and estate plan.