The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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      Many people have the erroneous perspective that only wealthy people need a Will. As a mother and a grandmother, Jane Earnest understands the importance of taking care of family…both in the present and with an eye toward the future. Over a decade ago, Jane asserted unapologetically “Anybody with a child needs to make a will.”     
      The apostle Paul penned some strong words concerning a Christian’s stewardship responsibility with regard to family when he wrote, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). While the opportunity to offer a Christian testimony through one’s Last Will and Testament was presented in “From Daniel’s Den” last week, the focus this week highlights Paul’s challenge regarding family by promoting the value of a Last Will and Testament for addressing the needs of family through end-of-life planning.
      Guardianship may be the single-most important issue when making future plans for children. I have some friends who adopted their son nearly 30 years ago. As parents, this young couple did everything that they could to ensure that their son’s needs were met at every stage of his development. When the young man was in college, his dad called me and asked if I would serve as the boy’s guardian in the event that something unexpected happened to both parents. This father, then in his early 50s, explained to me that he and his wife had never had a Will prepared simply because they could not resolve the issue of guardianship. By the time they had addressed that particular issue and had Wills drafted for both of them, their son was no longer a minor in terms of legal age.  Of further interest is the fact that several couples in my friends’ Sunday School class likewise had not prepared their Wills because they could not come to a decision regarding guardianship for their own children.     
      The question “Who gets the children?” is one that most parents would not want the court to answer. Parents of young children need to answer this all-important question and might benefit from asking a handful of additional questions when seeking an answer to the first. For instance: “Are grandparents the best guardians?” “Are minor children (including teenagers) best-served to have a 75-year old in charge of them?” “Do you want your sister and brother-in-law to raise your children or just your sister?” “What about a special-needs child?” “How do you plan to provide care for your special-needs child as they become adults?”
      Where family is concerned, Distribution of Assets is another key element that may be addressed through a Last Will and Testament. While most married couples with a minor child intend to leave assets to the surviving spouse and have the spouse care for the children, the assets of a married person who dies intestate (without a will) in Mississippi are divided equally among the surviving spouse and the couple’s children. Furthermore, careful thought should be given to when and how much capital to leave to children. A child’s maturity and ability to handle finances should be considered before presenting large sums of money and other assets to a child…even one who is of legal age.     
      Testamentary trusts can be employed to distribute assets with family in mind. Children trusts, marital trusts, and special-needs trusts can be outlined through a Last Will and Testament. Christian attorneys, estate-planning specialists and other professionals can offer guidance for preparing a Will that addresses the needs of family from a biblical worldview.
      Sometimes when visiting a Keenagers, JOY, Hilltoppers, or LLL group at a local church, I’ll ask the group “How many of you have grands and great-grands?” Typically, several in the assembly raise their hand and poke out their chest a little bit as a huge smile appears on their face. I then ask “How many of you know for certain that the parents of your grands and great-grands have made preparation for the care of your grandchildren should something unexpected and unforeseen happen to these parents?” I’ll ask further, “Do you know for certain that the parents of your grands have a Last Will and Testament that provides for guardianship and a children’s trust in order for your grands to receive necessary and proper care?” Raised hands tend to be lowered, chests that were swelled previously begin to shrink and smiles begin to fade. I’ll then challenge the group with something like, “Your homework is to call the parents of your grandchildren as soon as possible today and make sure that adequate planning has been made and provisions are in place for your grands through a Last Will and Testament and other appropriate legal documents.”     
      As Jane Earnest correctly observed, “We expect our children to have other documents (passport, driver’s license, etc.) and (having a Will) is an adult decision.” Where there’s a Will, there’s a way to love your family and demonstrate your love through a Last Will and Testament designed to provide for their needs even after the Lord has called you into “higher service” with Him.


Dear Heavenly Father, Family is important. After all, you ordained the institution of the family even before the institution of the church. Thank you for my family. Give me the wisdom to take necessary and appropriate steps to provide adequate safeguards for my family both while I am present and in my absence. May I be instrumental in encouraging other parents to do likewise. Amen.



*This article is adapted from Foundation News (Fall 2009) entitled “Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way” and should not be considered a source of legal or financial advice.