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Tips if you plan to leave significant money to your church

When you are drawing up a will or going through estate planning, one of your priorities may be leaving money to your church. It has been a source of joy and love for you, and you want to recognize and honor the church's role in your life.

So, here are a few tips to help ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible for you and your church beneficiary.

Make your wishes clear to at least one other person

If you have children or other people who assume they would inherit from you, you can stave off a lot of confusion and a potential legal battle by telling at least one other person of your wishes to leave money or assets to the church. Otherwise, your potential heirs might think that someone from the church unduly influenced you and caused you to write a will or estate plan you would not have otherwise.

In ideal situations, it helps if you feel free enough to tell your children early on that you intend to leave a sizable chunk of your estate, if not all of it, to the church. That way, there are no dashed expectations when the time comes.

Leave it to the church, not to someone associated with it

Another tip is to leave the money or assets to the church itself and not to the pastor or another top figure associated with the church. Otherwise, you run the risk of the beneficiary using the money for personal purposes. It also makes finances much easier for the beneficiary if personal and church funds are separate from the start. You can, of course, leave money to the church and then some to the pastor or other church friends if that is your wish.

Prepare early

It is also important to start planning early. For example, if it happens that you need to go into a nursing home, you might need to sell your house and otherwise spend down your funds before you qualify for Medicaid. Plan early, perhaps even starting to distribute your funds while you are alive, and you maximize what your church could receive.

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