Which would you rather have or give away: $92,000 or $100,000? This is not a trick question. Unfortunately, it is a reality that many people face when it comes to the distribution of assets after a loved one dies.
In the state of Michigan, if a person dies and has a $100,000 investment account but no beneficiary, the funds will have to go through a process known as probate. The cost of probate in Michigan can be up to 8% of the assets, or $8,000.
Probate can be a very tedious and troubling experience. Lawyers and judges get involved, family members may get into furious arguments, and it can be very time consuming. Having designated beneficiaries or an easily authenticated will that outlines what to do with assets can help families avoid this experience.
Recently I learned of someone who had a large sum of money spread out over many banks. None of the accounts had a beneficiary and the owner did not have a will. If this person were to suddenly die, the court system in the states where the bank accounts exist would have to step in and decide what to do with the money. The court system does not go through this process for free. The court may decide to distribute funds to four children equally, regardless of their individual status. Does this sound right? Is this something you want your family to experience?
Romans 13:1 says we should pay our fair share of taxes and fees and respect the government in which we live, however we don’t want to pay more than we must. With this in mind, a person who dies without beneficiaries, a will, or a trust, will maximize what the government receives. Wouldn’t you rather have your assets distributed to your loved ones and your church at your death, instead of having the government figure it out and possibly exclude your church as a recipient?
If you have not already done so, I appeal to you to contact the companies that handle your money and designate a beneficiary to make sure probate can be avoided. The Planned Giving and Trust Services Department at your local conference will be happy to help you fill out the necessary legal documents, such as wills or trusts, at no cost to you!
So, which would you rather have or give away: $92,000 or $100,000? As for me and my house, we choose $100,000.
Richard A. Moore is an associate treasure for the Lake Union Conference.