Leaving a Legacy for Future Generations

“We should so live and labor in our time that what came to us as seed may go to the next generation as blossom, and what came to us as blossom may go to them as fruit.”  – Henry Ward Beecher

We all desire significance –- to lead happy and fulfilled lives surrounded by family and friends. And for many of us, there is a compelling need to make a difference – to leave a lasting impact on the people most dear to us and the world in which we live.  The search for significance and desire to plan for the future leads many to ponder their legacy. What kind of legacy will you leave?

Our ancestors left us a legacy of faith that provided places to worship that we love today.  While we don’t know what ministries of the future might require in the way of resources, we do know that our generation can provide financial resources to those who will come after us – faithful people we will never meet, but who will feel the impact of our love for them.

One way to provide for future generations is through your will.  It is no accident that a will is called a last will and testament.  A testament is nothing more than your personal testimony.  It says what you believe and what you stand for.  In fact, it may be the most important statement of all regarding what we truly believe matters most in our Christian life.

Many faithful members consider the church to be their family and, accordingly, include the church they love in their charitable estate plans through a bequest.  The charitable bequest affords a way for virtually anyone to witness to his or her faith in Christ.  A bequest may take on a number of forms, including a specific dollar amount, a percentage of the estate’s residual value, or the gift of a specific asset.  Tithing from our accumulated assets, just like from our regular income, is a good starting point for a faithful steward.

It is not difficult to add a charitable bequest to an existing will or living trust.  You should, or course, seek the advice and counsel of your attorney to make sure that your charitable dreams for your church are effectively and legally fulfilled.  There are only three places your assets can go upon your death:  family and friends, government or charity, including your church or favorite ministry.  Not a difficult choice, right?

Many of our local churches have established Endowment Funds to receive gifts from estates of their congregation members who wish to leave a legacy.  Palo Alto First UMC, Los Altos UMC, Modesto First UMC, Carson City UMC, Fair Oaks UMC, Santa Rosa United Methodist Foundation, Stockton Central UMC, Napa First UMC, Watsonville First UMC and San Jose Wesley UMC are just a few of our churches with Endowment Funds making regular distributions to their ministries.  These funds will go on giving to future generations of faithful congregations.

Questions to ponder:

  • Have you made a will?
  • Is God in your will?

susan petersSusan Peters, CFRE
Executive Director
California-Nevada United Methodist Foundation