For Christians, estate planning should not only be leaving behind our material things through the drafting of a will and/or a trust and the careful designation of insurance, IRA and pension plans which provide for loved ones and avoid estate taxes. Rather, a focus on the eternal and the Gospel should also be an important part of the planning. As you have been called in life to witness to God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ, so too, in death, by reflecting on your legacy there is great opportunity when your family and friends gather together.

We all know the story of the cobbler’s children who had no shoes. So too, many of us are like the cobbler – in this instance – neglecting to carefully plan for children, loved ones and the charities we are committed to upon our death. Indeed, at the very thought of it, many of us want to move on to some other topic thinking: “I know it’s important, but I’m in good health, “ or “I don’t have time right now, I’ll get to it later;” or “it’s too expensive and complicated.” I know, for I have used them all, but these excuses only put off fulfilling our profound responsibility to provide for our loved ones and for the Kingdom of God through our charitable giving. After all, if you don’t plan for them, you are leaving it to the government to do your planning.

How? Here are two suggestions. First, write into your will or other estate documents your hope and legacy since these will be read by family and others. Though many of my clients draft their own statements of legacy, it may be as simple as:

I, __________, of __________, Illinois, being of sound disposing mind and memory, and realizing the uncertainty of this life, and with full confidence and trust in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in His death on the cross and shed blood as an atonement for my sins, and knowing that by faith in His sacrifice on the cross for me I now have eternal life, do hereby make, publish and declare the following to be my Last Will & Testament, hereby revoking all former wills and codicils thereto, if any, by me made.

A more detailed legacy statement may specifically encourage the next generation to following in your footsteps or in detail testify to God’s work in your life. As they say, the heavens are the limit. However, along with this advice is one caution, do not let the drafting of this legacy become one more excuse for not completing an estate plan. Set a deadline to complete it and stick to it.

A second suggestion has to do with your funeral. Part of your legacy on earth is, after all, your relationship with Christ. Funerals are a once in a lifetime opportunity to plant seeds about the Gospel. As Christians, we have hope in eternity and funerals often provoke thoughts of the afterlife for nonbelievers who are attending. Planning for a service and funeral can go further to creatively help those attending find their way to Christ. Here are some creative ways to include the Gospel in your memorial service:

  • Have someone tell your testimony or narrate and record it yourself and include it in your files for when the time comes.
  • Include your favorite hymn or Bible verse as part of the ceremony.
  • Ask your pastor or church member to share a story about your involvement in the church and how you impacted others through ministry.
  • Often there is a table display of memorabilia, so include your Bible or devotional book that you used regularly or your favorite scripture verse, poem you or a loved one cross stitched onto a decorative pillow years ago, or other similar testimony of God’s love.

Remember, part of our legacy on earth is, after all, that through our relationship with Christ, we are citizens of heaven. Therefore, we can say with confidence:

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:55-58: