A Web site, combined with real life events, has jolted me. The Internet site presented a three-step process on how to steal an estate!
It listed over forty tips on actions an unethical criminal might take to exercise undue influence over others (especially the elderly) to get them to disinherit the family and ministries that were objects of the “target’s” love and affection. The desired result was the transfer of wealth to criminal purposes.
For a Christian caught in this scheme, the stewardship opportunity to leave a legacy of love and compassion, developed under God’s leadership, was lost. I was saddened to see how those with evil intent could manipulate those unable to protect themselves. I was angered at those who take advantage and frustrated with those who put off the planning that could protect them.
In contrast, it is such an encouragement to witness the unfolding of plans carefully and prayerfully prepared by faithful Christian stewards. They took initiative to put estate management tools in place before they reached the point of being susceptible to those with criminal intent.
They realized that sound mind and clear thinking were daily gifts from God, not rights to be presumed upon tomorrow.
Now, in the days that physical, mental and emotional health are waning, they are protected by the plans made earlier. People of integrity who love them and are capable of helping care for them are in place to serve them.
Just at the point that confusion and helplessness would make them vulnerable, they experience God’s care in a new way as others are empowered to act on their behalf.
Procrastination is not the friend of the Christian — especially not one desiring to be faithful in the stewardship of God’s blessings. In being wise stewards of life, we must apply the words of Jesus from John 12:35 where he says, “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” While we have the light of a clear mind, it is the time to make and complete our plans.
Carefully laid plans will include properly prepared and executed legal documents. A durable power of attorney can provide for lifetime management of business and financial affairs. A durable power of attorney for health care accompanied by a medical directive can guide in physical care.
A will instructing how the earthly estate is to be managed and distributed can assure that your purposes are fulfilled after your death. In some instances, a revocable living trust may be the best way to provide for lifetime management of the estate followed by efficient care of the estate for those you wish to benefit in the years beyond your days on earth.
In each of these legal arrangements you designate others to act on your behalf. This is why it is so very important that you make these plans before those who would prey upon you can take advantage of any weakened physical, mental or emotional condition.
At what age will your condition slip such that you become vulnerable to those who would take advantage of you? Is it at age 80 when some type of dementia starts to develop? Is it at age 55 when a stroke unexpectedly alters your personality? Is it at age 25 when a car accident that was not your fault results in brain damage?
Who, besides you, will be impacted? Will it be a spouse or children that rely upon you to manage the family’s business and financial affairs? Will it be your church or other ministries that rely upon your support? Plan while you can.
Stephen E. Mathis is the executice vice president for the Missouri Baptist Foundation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.