In part one of our inheritance questions series, we provided guidance on dividing up inheritance and offered different options for choosing inheritors in the family.
Challenging situations and strife may arise not only from merit-based distribution, but with whomever else you choose to receive your inheritance. Those outside your immediate heirs such as charities, members of the extended family, or friends may have had a major impact on you, and you may want to include them in your inheritance. The book of Proverbs lends a reason for an unequal inheritance and for why including a wider net of loved ones is a valuable consideration:
“A wise servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers …. of what use is money in the hands of fools when they have no heart to acquire wisdom?” Proverbs 17:2, 16
The final group chosen to be your inheritors can be a surprise to those who felt they would be the main recipients but may result in a wiser stewardship of God’s resources. Regardless of the source of strife, resolving it before your passing is a key component to passing a legacy to the next generation.
Remedy the Division Over Inheritance
Consider starting the conversation with your inheritors now. Especially with children, talking about inheritance can remedy any strife about the complexities in your plans. As Proverbs 27:12 says, “A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences.”
Conversations about your family’s legacy and inheritance can bring your family members together and provide an opportunity to learn more about each other. Create a meeting and consider starting with the following agenda:
- Take turns to express love and appreciation for each other.
- Recall and share positive stories or life changing memories/moments with each other.
- Reflect on the character qualities, personal attributes, and positive strengths of each other.
Then, members of the family will begin to see the value of sharing the inheritance with each inheritor. Specific funds and items can be divided according to individuals’ strengths, not their wants and desires. This opens the door for you to reinforce with your inheritors how your plans work toward a strong family legacy and are oriented with values of biblical stewardship.
Inheriting Personal Possessions
Providing a clear and equitable distribution of your personal possessions is also critical to maintain long-term harmony among your family members, but this can be just as difficult as distributing finances. When your personal possessions are distributed after you pass, family minister and author Dr. Brian Kluth in his Legacy Organizer recommends the following possible distribution strategy:
Distribution Step 1:
Create a personal possession distribution list, noting what items you have discussed with people and what items still need to be discussed.
Distribution Step 2:
Create a family possession list of things that could be shared with several different people. Make copies of the list and have each child fill out their version of the list, marking a
1=Would really like;
2=Would be willing to take; or
Then you can return the forms to an advisor or neutral party who will seek to, as much as possible, fairly distribute the personal property. This may not resolve all the answers but will provide more clarity than you started with on how your inheritors value property.
Distribution Step 3:
A similar list of remaining items can then be given to extended friends and family.
Distribution Step 4:
Any remaining assets can be sold and/or given to local charities or thrift shops.
Preparing Charitable Giving and Working Together
Why is family giving so essential? There could be many ways to selfishly decide how to plan your estate, but having a family giving conversation is crucial for pursuing a shared, values-based approach. It is also important for a successful transfer of values between generations.
Family giving provides a common ground. In the process of conversation, there are opportunities to increase communication, talk about values, work through disagreements, build trust, and grow in accountability. The benefit will be a generous family with a shared, multi-generational vision for impact that takes the focus away from storing up for the family and places it on giving back to the true owner: God.
If you have not considered some of the exercises above and foresee tension in your inheritance, the good news is the great opportunity before you. Great fault can come in thinking the solution is to look down and continually pour over ledgers and financial documents, strategizing and planning with your own pen. The true gift of blessing others with your inheritance comes when you look up toward God and side to side with those you love, unlocking the eternal and generational joy of your inheritance.