By Dennis Wiggs

A will is a legal document. The written record expresses a person’s personal desires and plans for earthly possessions. The average young pastor thinks, “I don’t have enough money to need a will!”

Or, he states, “I’m afraid to get a will. I may die the next day.” That was my opinion until my brother-in-law, John S. Craft, died at age 39 in a single-vehicle accident. As soon as my wife and I got back home, we immediately began to prepare our financial affairs in case of our deaths.

One of those things that I had put off was drawing up a will, which we did soon in an attorney’s office. Death did not claim us the day after we signed the papers, but my wife and I did have a greater peace of mind. We especially felt better about the care of our five children if both of us died at the same time.

Necessity of a Will

You may possess more than you realize. Two vehicles, a home, a life insurance policy or two, an inheritance, furniture, savings, investments—it all adds up.

A will declares that the living spouse will receive all the possessions of the deceased spouse without any legal difficulties. Everyone wants to be assured of this guarantee.

Wisdom of a Will

Every young couple with young children should have a will to provide for the care of the children in the event both of them die at the same time. A properly written will guarantees placement of the children where the couple wants them to go.

In our first will, my wife and I stated that we wanted all five of our children to be placed in the same children’s home so that they would not be separated. Thankfully, that never became necessary.

Executor of the Will

In the event of the death of both parents simultaneously, it is wise to declare an executor in the will. The executor is responsible to file all necessary forms, pay all expenses, and make proper distributions. A bank officer, a trusted friend, or an adult child could serve in this capacity.

A young pastor may plan to live to age 100, but he may not. It is better to plan as if an executor will be needed.

Provisions in a Will

If a young pastor wants to leave 10% to his church after his estate is settled, the will is an ideal document to assure this plan. If he wants to pass along specific possessions with sentimental value to certain children, the will could accomplish this. Certain statements could be made.

Legality of a Will

Are online wills okay? Can a pastor write his own will? While it is possible to draft a will without an attorney, in my personal opinion, there is tremendous risk in doing so. I recommend spending a few dollars for peace of mind.

Also, if a move to another state becomes necessary, it may be wise to determine if the new state requires the will to be updated. Considering the importance of this document, it is most important that every aspect of the will be completely legal and executable.

Greatest Problem

Procrastination. Very few people die while sitting in an attorney’s office signing a will. The young pastor needs to deal with this fear. Make an appointment today with a legal advisor. Contact Free Will Baptist Foundation for a free guide to making a will. When your estate is in order, an emotional load disappears. Besides, a family may be saved from later regret and hardship.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, February 2000.