Tennessee Baptist Foundation will assist ministers, laity with estate plans
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — The results of a recent survey about estate planning, contracted by the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Foundation, are disappointing but not surprising, said Bill Gruenewald, president of the Tennessee Baptist Foundation.
The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research, revealed that more than half of Southern Baptist pastors do not have a will, trust, living will, electronic will, legacy story or durable power of attorney with health care directives.
The survey also indicated that pastors age 18-44 are least likely to have a will (31 percent) or a durable power of attorney with health care directives (14 percent). Even among pastors closest to retirement (ages 55-64 and 65-plus), the portion of those who have a will is just barely a majority (54 percent), according to the survey.
The survey results of pastors closely parallels Americans in general, Gruenewald observed, noting that 60-70 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan in place.
Survey results noted that 74 percent of the pastors surveyed believe that estate planning should be considered a part of a person’s complete financial stewardship.
“There is a disconnect from what we believe with what we actually do,” Gruenewald said.
The TBF leader observed that pastors are like everyone else — prone to procrastination. “We think we’ll do it tomorrow,” he said.
But there is no guarantee of tomorrow for anyone,
said. “We don’t know when unexpected things will happen.”
In addition, to being practical, estate planning also is biblical, he noted. Gruenewald cited Proverbs 13:22 (KJV): “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children. …”
“Estate planning is part of the stewardship of the blessings/resources that God has given us,” he observed.
Gruenewald especially is concerned that nearly half of pastors who are retirement age do not have an estate plan in place. “That should be a top priority for your family,” he said.
And, younger pastors with families need a will just as much as those nearing retirement, he continued. If a will is not in place, the court will decide who will care for your children, Gruenewald stressed. “It’s better for you to make that decision,” he opined.
Warren Peek, president of the Southern Baptist Foundation, observed that “basic planning saves a lot of headaches for your loved ones.
“Through an estate plan, taxes can be minimized and assets protected. While most reasons for procrastinating are understandable, none will serve to lessen the reality that the absence of a will can have a devastating impact on an estate,” Peek said.
Gruenewald noted that both the TBF and SBF have resources available free of charge on their websites.
Ironically, in the LifeWay Research survey, more than half of the pastors surveyed said information about Christian estate planning and free online resources would be helpful. “The resources are already there,” Gruenewald said.
Gruenewald said the TBF will work with churches to hold seminars to educate their members about estate planning. In addition, the TBF will work with individuals to put estate plans in place. That’s what we’re here for,” he said.
He stressed that the services of the Foundation in helping people establish a plan is free except for the legal costs involved with a will or trust. Those costs are assumed by the individual, Gruenewald said.
The TBF leader added that the Foundation recommends a legacy portion of every estate. “We want a portion of everyone’s estate to help a Baptist cause until Jesus returns,” he said.
Tennessee pastor Clay Hallmark of First Baptist Church, Lexington, and his wife Leslie recently prepared an estate plan through the Foundation.
“With my children now grown and out of the house, we knew it was imperative that we properly plan our estate to match our wishes and provide for our children and future grandchildren. Too many ministers do not plan for their future financially,” he observed.
Hallmark said his family understands “that a big part of good stewardship for a child of God is estate planning. Through the TBF we found a partner who was willing to walk through this simple process with us step by step so that we have a great plan for our future.
“Additionally, I was able to establish a tithe of my estate in this planning so that I continue to be a good steward of God’s provisions even after I am gone. I would encourage every Tennessee Baptist minister to contact Bill Gruenewald and the TBF and get your estate planning in order.”
The SBF’s Peek agreed. The Southern Baptist Foundation and state Baptist foundations have tools to assist pastors in making their estate plans, he said. “Your will is an opportunity to articulate your wishes, your values and your legacy,” Peek said.
For more information about estate planning, contact the Tennessee Baptist Foundation at 615-371-2029.
— This article includes reporting by Leigh Anne Bowick for Baptist Press.