Part of my job as a financial planner is to project the future of my client’s financial life to see whether they have enough assets to cover their future. We often project out to age 90 or 95 to make sure clients do not run out of money.
I also help them decide how to disburse their money when that time arrives.
One of the most depressing verses in the Bible that reveals the tragic consequences that can result from poor estate planning is the following:
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the lord, nor what he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10, NIV).
How an estate is structured can help to further God’s blessings to the next generation (perhaps through your Christian college) or cause them to be forgotten.
We’ll now look at how King David’s estate plan carried on his generational goals for God’s kingdom purposes and how the fundraising and development team at your Christian college can, too.
King David’s Unexpected Heir: Solomon
During the time of David, the heir was generally the king’s eldest son. The king had the prerogative to appoint his chosen heir ahead of this expectation. However, going against the default expectation took advance planning.
David’s oldest two sons predeceased David, leaving Adonijah as his eldest. When David was close to death, Adonijah expected to become king and claimed the throne (I Kings 1:5).
But David went against the expectations of the day, led by God through the words of the prophet Nathan. David chose Solomon to succeed him. David also wanted to build a temple for God, but God did not allow this, instructing David to leave that to his successor (I Chronicles 22:6–10).
King David’s Estate Plan: A Trust with Wisdom and Understanding
In response, David did two things:
First, he instructed his son Solomon, spiritually. In Proverbs 4:3-9, Solomon recounted when he was a boy some of the things David taught him, such as “get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. … Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.”
David wanted to pass along his godly values to his son so that those values would pass to the next generation.
Second, he created something like a trust. He put much of his material wealth into a fund to be used to build the Temple.
“My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore, I will make preparations for it” (1 Chronicles 22:5, NIV).
In publicly announcing this planned gift, he stated,
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14, NIV).
All Christian generosity should rest on this humble prayer.
We do not truly own anything, and we cannot take anything with us. Our gifts and our estate plan are acts of stewardship.
The result of David’s planned, thoughtful, giving was another generation blessed by God. David’s values were accepted and practiced by his successor, and his property was used to honor and glorify God in a meaningful way.
Those should be the two goals of every Christian’s estate plan.
Jehoshaphat’s Estate Plan: The Cultural Default
Contrast how David did his estate planning with his descendant Jehoshaphat. The author of the book of Chronicles describes Jehoshaphat in glowing terms:
“The lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him” (2 Chronicles 17:3, NIV).
Jehoshaphat reigned 25 years, but he did not seem to give much thought to his estate plan.
His first-born son Jehoram succeeded him as king. Jehoshaphat had seven sons from whom to choose a successor, but Jehoshaphat chose the first born, the conventional, default choice.
There is no indication that Jehoshaphat tried to pass on his values to Jehoram, and if he tried it was not successful.
When Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram got himself established as king. Once he did, he put “all his brothers to the sword,” and he “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 21:4–6, NIV).
Jehoshaphat had six other sons, all of whom, in the eyes of God (as stated by his prophet Elijah), were “men who were better than [Jehoram]” (2 Chronicles 21:13, NIV).
Did Jehoshaphat give it any thought, or did he just bow to the default choice? In choosing Jehoram, did he take steps to pass along his values to his son? We see no indication that he did. (See 2 Chronicles 21:1-6, 12-13.)
Ultimately, God’s blessing did not survive the next generation. Jehoram died in “great pain” and “he passed away, to no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20, NIV).
In our current era, if we do no estate plan, our estate generally gets split in equal shares for our children.
Helping Donors Plan Their Estate Like King David
When a donor does any sort of planned giving, including giving out of their estate, you can help them to begin thinking like King David by first asking: “Why are you making the gift? What are you trying to accomplish?”
Most people never get to the why. They give it all to their spouse, and then equally to their children because that is what everyone else does, and that is what most estate planning attorneys will assume you want.
Jehoshaphat did what everyone else did and look what it got him. David did something different. We all need to consider doing something different.
Below are more questions to help potential donors to your Christian college sort through this important life decision:
- How will you best use your financial assets to pass along your eternal, deeply held values to the next generation or generations?
- How will you communicate to your heirs, the next generations, what was important to them and what should be important to them?
- Do you want to model generosity?
- Do you want to show your heirs the kind of institution that is important to them?
- Are you giving your assets away in a manner that will help the next generation draw nearer to God, or forget God?
- Should you give more to those heirs who have demonstrated that they will be better stewards?
- Are you leaving valuable assets to heirs who have demonstrated that they will waste it, or use it for ignoble purposes?
You can help potential donors to your Christian school and its mission incorporate their faith into their decision-making, to not leave these important decisions up to worldly defaults, which may or may not achieve their godly estate planning goals.