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Estate Planning in Religious Life

I  thought that religious leaders who must deal with death on a weekly basis would be a little more aware of the need for an estate plan. However, a recent survey shows otherwise.

A survey of Southern Baptist pastors conducted for the Southern Baptist Foundation has revealed that more than half of them don’t have the estate basics, including a will, trust, living will, electronic will, legacy story or durable power of attorney with health care directives.”

This survey showed that 74% of the pastors surveyed think estate planning should be considered part of a person’s complete financial stewardship.

However, executives at LifeWay Research say the survey shows a lack of awareness about estate planning and the laws which may be factors in pastors not having a plan in place. Procrastinating is common, but failing to have an estate plan in place can have a devastating impact on an estate.

Of course, basic estate planning saves a lot of trouble for family and loved ones. However, in addition, taxes can be minimized and assets protected.

According to the survey, pastors age 18-44 are the least likely to have a will (31%) or a durable power of attorney with health care directives (14%). Only about half of those pastors closest to retirement (age 55-64 and 65-plus) have a will (54% for both groups). Likewise, few of those closest to retirement (age 55-64 and 65-plus) have a health care durable power of attorney (25% for both groups).

It’s a bit of a surprise that so many pastors don’t have a plan for their families and property after their death, especially those that should be most likely to be thinking about this issue—the ones with young families. They seem to be the least prepared.

About 64% of the clergy surveyed, agree with a statement that the court decides who will care for a child if the last parent dies without a will; 16% percent disagree, with 21% saying they didn’t know. When asked about assets, the survey showed that 48% of pastors said that if someone dies without a will, their family decides what happens with the assets of the deceased; 33% disagree, and 19% “don’t know.”

However, both with property and children, it’s the court that decides what happens to them, if there’s no will.

The survey reflects the data from more than 1,100 completed surveys that were conducted, both by mail and online, this past spring.

ReferenceBaptist Press (August 31, 2018) “Young or old, many pastors lack a will, survey finds”

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