Is gift planning for me?

Q: I don’t think I have enough money or assets for gift planning. How little is too little?

A: When talking about gift planning, there is no such thing as “too little.” Even the smallest gifts can change lives for the better. Plus, many of us have assets that we aren’t aware possess value, but our gift planning counselors will work with you to identify that which you have.

Q: I’m not anywhere near retirement age. Am I too young to start a gift plan?

A: As any financial planner will tell you, the right time to begin planning is yesterday. Gift planning is no exception, and it’s advised that you begin thinking about the future of your family and faith as soon as you’re comfortable doing so.

There’s no downside to creating a plan today. Gift plans are easily updated and can be reviewed, changed or even reversed at any time (although some specific gift plan vehicles are not revocable). We recommend that individuals review their plans every 3-5 years, or after milestones such as retirement or after the death of a spouse.

Many gift plans contain components that are perfect for younger individuals and families. Setting up a donor advised fund (DAF) is a great way to create a yearly family tradition of giving and supporting ministry. Learn more about DAFs here.

Q: Do I need to belong to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to use your services?

A: Technically, no. We often work with spouses of LCMS members and others that still have a connection to the Synod, even if they’re not technically members. It is our policy to assist any individual in creating a gift plans as long as a minimum of 51% of the charitable gift will benefit a LCMS ministry. The policy is based primarily on our tax status as an organization established to support the LCMS church and its associated entities. So, we can help non-members with gift plans, but 51% of the gifts they outline in their plans must benefit LCMS entities.

Q: How will this impact my family's inheritance?

A: One of the best things about creating a gift plan is that they allow people to still provide the inheritance they envision for their family, while allowing them to also make a gift to ministry. More specifically, a charitable gift will reduce the amount of an inheritance given to family, but when structured properly, a gift plan can significantly minimize that reduction. This is often done by thoughtfully structuring how your assets will be distributed in a way that reduces taxes on your estate. That reduction in taxes can offset much of the gift you wish to make to your favorite LCMS ministry or other charity.

Beyond tax savings, gift plans can use the power of time, investing and earning interest to provide income or an inheritance for your family, but still leave a gift to ministry.

Q: Is there a cost to create a gift plan? Are there hidden fees?

A: The Foundation does not charge you a fee to go through the gift planning process. Think of it as a benefit to you as an LCMS member (the Foundation is an LCMS entity, similar to LCEF or Concordia Plan Services). In short, there’s no bill and you will never need to write us a check or make any payment to go through the gift planning process. Any costs (excluding attorney fees) come out of the gifts themselves and are not paid by donors.

Depending on the financial vehicles you choose, there may be fees that are paid from the gifts or fees on the interest those investment vehicles generate. For example, if the Foundation manages an endowment you create, it will earn interest each year, and the Foundation will charge a fee annually to invest and manage the endowment. Our fees are similar (although usually lower) to fees you might incur investing in an IRA or that are incurred when working with a financial planner. Fees vary based on the type of financial vehicle you choose. Your gift planning counselor can provide you with the exact amount.

Finally, estate planning requires specialized knowledge and skill. There is no replacement for competent legal counsel. Although the Foundation has attorneys on staff, they cannot provide you independent legal counsel. If you do not have an attorney your gift planning counselor will provide a list of attorneys in your area that others have used. Attorney fees vary, and the Foundation always recommends obtaining an explanation and estimate of the cost before engaging an attorney. Our gift planning counselors will also accompany you, at no charge, to meet with your attorney, if you wish. Having your counselor in the meeting can help expedite the process and minimize the hours needed (and billed) by your attorney.

Questions about having a will

Q: Can you help me create a will or estate plan?

A: No, not exactly. We don’t offer those services and you’re best to follow the guidelines and practices required by your state, including using an attorney or reputable will creating service. Our goal is to help you create a comprehensive plan, with your independent advisors, for how your assets and estate are distributed after you die. That includes reviewing how your will, beneficiary designations or other legal structures or financial vehicles will impact how your gifts are passed on after you’re called home to Heaven. A gift plan will inform you where changes might be needed, how to structure those changes and how to go about making them.

Q: I already have a will. How is this different?

A: The best intentions detailed in a will can be easily overruled if your non-cash assets (retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc.) designate different allocations than your will. For example, if your will says to leave 10 percent of your entire estate to your church, but your life insurance policy lists your children as full beneficiaries, those funds from your life insurance policy will not be distributed according to your will and won’t be included when calculating how much of your estate will go to your church. Beneficiary designations preclude arrangements you may have made in your will.

A thoughtful gift plan looks at all your assets, but also at any existing estate plans, wills or places you’ve designated a beneficiary. A gift plan helps you create one overarching, binding plan that ensures your wishes will be followed. Plus, wills or estate plans usually don’t include a charitable gift.

Who receives my gifts / donations?

Q: Do my gifts go to the LCMS Synod or the LCMS Foundation? 

A: No, your gifts go directly to the ministry or ministries you name in your plan. Many people do create gifts that benefit the Synod directly, and some choose to bless the Foundation with gifts, but if your plan names your congregation, for example, the funds from your gift will go to your congregation. In short, the Foundation’s role is to help you create gifts that go directly to the ministries you select.

Q: Will my gifts be distributed exactly how I want, after I’ve been called home to Heaven?

A: Your gift plan isn’t just a series of suggestions; it’s essentially a contract, one that the Foundation and all our partners are legally obligated to follow. You can rest assured that your wishes will be followed exactly as you specified.

In cases where a gift is planned for a ministry, but the ministry no longer exists when the gift plan is implemented, the Foundation looks to the original donor agreement for direction. Many plans include language detailing how the donor wants gifts to be distributed if a ministry beneficiary is no longer viable.

Q: I’m not sure what ministries or causes I should support. How do I choose?

A: Your LCMS Foundation gift planning counselor is happy to share a variety of options with you, and provide you with all the information you need to make well-informed choices you can feel good about. However, our counselors only suggest ministries if you ask them to do so. Our mission is to support the generous gift our Lord has placed in your heart, not to try and steer gifts toward any particular ministry or organization.

Many donors start with plans to support their home congregation or the LCMS school in their community. Others chose to create or support endowments at one of the Concordia Universities, to support one of our two seminaries or a favorite LCMS RSO.

Q: Do my gifts need to go to LCMS ministries? Or can I support other nonprofits?

A: Yes and no. To protect our tax status, the Foundation’s policy is to help any individual create a gift plan as long as 51% of the charitable portion of the plan is given to an LCMS entity. However, many people do split their gifts so that 51% goes to their favorite LCMS entity, while the remaining amount is dedicated to a non-LCMS charity or organization. Such gifts are common and we are happy to help with those as well.

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Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

Start Your Gift Plan Today!

If your congregation or ministry has a gift planning program in place, you already have access to a dedicated gift planning counselor. Click the "Learn More" button below to learn how to get started, including setting up a no-obligation discovery session.

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Options to Structure Your Gift Plan

Just as everyone has different goals and needs, we offer a variety of different options to structure your gift plan. Each option has its respective strengths and variables, and each can be of benefit to someone if applied thoughtfully, and with guidance.

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The Benefits of Gift Planning

Having a gift plan in place provides benefits beyond the obvious blessing of providing for your heirs. Those benefits include peace of mind, potentially significant tax savings and the chance to create a lasting gift to your favorite ministries.

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Contact Us

How can we help you today? If you're a current donor, or if you're new to the LCMS Foundation and would like more information, we'd love to hear from you. Please use the "I have a question or comment about" drop-down field below to get your comment to the correct person or department faster.