“I don’t want to give them anything.”
We were at that crucial moment in his estate plan, and Joe needed to decide how much he was going to leave his kids and grandkids. When the question came up how much he wanted to leave them, he was firm in his resolve. For the next 40 minutes, I heard all of his stories about how his kids had frittered away money, failed to listen to his advice, and only came to him for money.
He was bitter, and wanted to cut them out of his estate entirely. After some careful conversation, I challenged Joe. I told him, “Joe, do you want this to be your last testimony to your kids—that you gave them nothing?” With some grudging, Joe made the decision to make a small gift to them.
While the bulk of his estate will go to fund Christian ministry, I can’t help but wonder what Joe would trade for a good relationship with his kids and grandkids. Somewhere along the line something went awry. Communication and trust had failed.
Ultimately, the decision to leave behind money to children is an easy one. It’s the stroke of a pen and the deed is done. But the magic is not in giving them money. In fact, don’t give them money. Do the hard work of intentionally building relationships, sharing stories and values.
And when the question comes, “How much do you want to leave your children?” your response will simply be, “Why, I’ve already left them everything.”
William F. High is the President/General Counsel of the Servant Christian Community Foundation (www.servantchristian.com). Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.