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Inheritance Questions: How Much Do I Leave to Who?

A quill, representing The Signatry

The Signatry

March 4, 2022

How much do I leave behind in my will for each of my desired inheritors? This can be a daunting, open-ended question for anyone, whether they have $1,000 or $1 million dollars in their name.

When confronted with the options in planning the inheritance, Christians face several options ranging from children, grandchildren, siblings, charity, church, and more. Does it make sense to get strategic with the distribution? Does it matter where it all goes?

God has shown us time and again in the Bible that he desires a covenant of faith to be passed forward for generations (Deuteronomy 7:9). It certainly does matter that you think about your descendants. He has also shown us that we should invest wisely and multiply the resources he has given us to benefit His Kingdom and our families (Matthew 25). This call to stewardship leads us to reckon with God’s blessings and how they will be distributed for His good after we are gone.

Does Equal Inheritance Lead to Sound Stewardship?

Most instances of inheritance in the Bible were passed equally, and many people will find this path to work well in their situation. As a part of keeping the family covenant strong, together, and honoring to God, many will likely invest in their offspring equally and set them up for success. But, in certain situations, we must consider how we steward God’s blessings to our families.

In Genesis 49, although Jacob and Rebekah had played favorites with their 12 children, at the end of the day Jacob distributed the family inheritance unequally based on specific merit reasons. Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, should have received a double inheritance. But Reuben was unfaithful, so he did not get the share. Similarly, sons 2 and 3, Simeon and Levi, had fierce anger, so they were disqualified. It was the fourth son, Judah, who got the double portion.

While we should endeavor to love our children equally, it does not automatically mean we should give them an equal inheritance because that may result in poor stewardship. Bill High shares in his “5 Keys to Inheritance” that there are a few stand-out variables when it comes to weighing the family distribution. It is important to consider how your inheritors demonstrate responsibility, gratitude, generosity, work ethic, and a mindset for later generations.

The lessons of the Bible lead us to pursue these questions on how we use what God has blessed us with through our estate. As a practical rule, the larger and more complex the inheritance, the more likely there will be a need to consider merit-based distribution. 

Future Generations 

What is the scope of those who should receive my inheritance? Am I called to ensure only my children are prepared, or do I have an obligation to my grandchildren, too? 

The Bible talks about giving to grandchildren. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good person leaves an inheritance to their children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” 

That word “good” also translates as “just.” The idea is that a good person has overflow of their life. In other words, through character, deeds, reputation, words, etc. a good person’s life overflows generationally. It isn’t simply financial wealth, but as you care for your grandchildren through the passing of these lessons, financial wealth can be a portion of how you impact them. 

“And this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!” — Isaiah 59:21 NLT 

When it comes down to it, what do people really want out of an inheritance? The answer might surprise you. Overwhelmingly, both parents and children (74% of survey respondents) said that they wanted to inherit values and life lessons the most, not money. This commonality between generations and what they desire might put into perspective how you think about the financial side of inheritance. Consider how much time you allocate toward passing along life lessons and values in the same way you hope to have a sound distribution of financial wealth.  

About The Signatry

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The Signatry seeks to inspire and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity across generations. Through donor advised funds and other innovative tools and resources, families are empowered to live generously, modeling biblical values for future generations and making a greater impact for causes that align with their passions. Since its founding in 2000, The Signatry has facilitated sending over $4 billion to organizations around the world that are dedicated to solving the world’s greatest problems.

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