The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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R-E-S-P-E-C-T ?

      Aretha Franklin, pop music icon and highly acclaimed Queen of Soul, died three years ago today. Aretha was 76 years old. This past weekend, a biographical drama hit the theaters after being delayed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Labeled “RESPECT,” this movie is a nod to Franklin’s hit song which is a revision of Otis Redding, Jr.’s earlier piece by the same name.     
      Although Aretha had more than a few challenges and low points during her life, these difficulties are not the focal point of the movie. Nonetheless, the ultimate low point for Franklin may actually be chronicled in an August 29, 2018 USA Today article published shortly after Franklin’s death. Entitled, “Don’t be like Aretha; prepare a will,” the opening sentence of the article offered “Aretha Franklin’s legacy could include teaching consumers yet another word: W-I-L-L.” According to the article, Franklin had made no plans for the distribution of her estate assets. Similar to other celebrities who had estate-planning mishaps –Prince, Michael Jackson, Steve “Air” McNair, Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King, Jr., Heath Ledger, Marlon Brando, and Princess Diana – Franklin had not addressed how she wanted her estate to be distributed upon her departure from this earth. Noted in the article is the fact that Aretha had a special needs son named Clarence for whom a Last Will and Testament could have outlined provisions for his long-term care.
      This USA Today article is quite insightful and serves as a reminder to anyone who currently does not have a Last Will and Testament or other end-of-life planning document. One statement in particular is telling…“If you die without a Will, the state, the courts, and the lawyers step in to handle matters. Creditors will be paid off and assets will be distributed under the law of the state where you live.” In other words, if you neglect to prayerfully and carefully prepare a Last Will and Testament that reflects your values be assured that the state has a Last Will and Testament already in place for you. In all likelihood, the state’s version will find few parallels with what you would want. And, as attorney Danielle Mayoras is quoted in the article, “It makes it a lot harder on your family to go through that process.”     
      Two key reasons exist for supporting someone or something financially, namely, (1) Love and (2) Dependency. While I plan to address this topic further in a later article, for the present I will simply submit that parents support their children because they love their kids and recognize that children are dependent upon them. Granted, parents hope that financial dependency lessens once children are launched, but for the better part of two decades (and perhaps longer in many cases) kids lean on their parents for a goodly portion of their financial needs. Parental love fuels the financial blessings extended to children during these formative years.
      In a somewhat similar vein, people love and support their church and other ministries due to an appreciation for the values held, missional focus, impact on communities, and outreach to specific groups of people. Such loving financial support, however, creates a dependency on the part of these charitable organizations who rely on contributions to advance their mission or cause.     
      Although Aretha Franklin became wildly popular from her rendition of “RESPECT,” I would argue that her perspective on respect is not nearly as needed in our world today as Jesus’ teaching on L-O-V-E. Specifically, Jesus affirmed that the greatest commandment was to love God completely. He continued by declaring that loving others is like unto the first (Matt. 22:34-40). Through a Last Will and Testament, Christians can highlight their love for God and for others in a tangible way.
      For assistance preparing a Last Will and Testament that outlines a “Kids and the Kingdom” or “Family and Faith” kind of approach to legacy planning, please refer to resources available on the Foundation’s web page at You may also call our office at (601) 292-3210 or (601) 292-3211.     
      Ironically, in her quest for Respect Aretha Franklin managed to Neglect both her privilege and responsibility to Direct estate assets in a manner beneficial for Clarence, other family members, and perhaps a host of charities that she supported during her lifetime. Don’t be like Aretha. Rather, Love God…Love People and prepare for the future accordingly through a W-I-L-L.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for opportunities to love and serve you and others during my earthly sojourn. Thank you also for the unique and continuing opportunity to serve you and others through a Last Will and Testament when I have been called into “higher service” with you. Please enable me to influence others to love, honor, and respect both you and others through a Last Will and Testament that projects Christian values and financial stewardship from a biblical worldview. Amen!