Issues and Answers

Lessons From Ellen G. White Will

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Jeffery Wilson & Leonard Westphal


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000231

00:32 Hello I'm Shelley Quinn and welcome again to
00:34 Issues and Answers.
00:35 You know the Bible says, in Deuteronomy 8:18, "you shall
00:40 "earnestly remember the Lord your God for it is He who
00:44 "gives you power to get wealth that He may establish His
00:48 "covenant which He swore to your fathers as it is this
00:52 "day." And today we are going to talk about God giving us
00:56 this wealth and making as a channel of blessing to pass
01:00 this wealth on to help Him establish that covenant.
01:04 I have two very special guests with me today, it is my
01:07 pleasure to introduce you to Jeff Wilson, Jeff you are the
01:11 Director For the Planned Giving and Trust Services of the
01:15 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.
01:18 - that's right! - how long? - Uh, since 2000.
01:21 Since 2000, and how have you enjoyed living in
01:24 Silver Springs Maryland?
01:26 Well I am not up there a lot of time, sort of all around
01:28 the world, but we enjoy the East Coast.
01:31 Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, we will hear more about
01:34 your story and then sitting next to you, is our own
01:38 Director for the 3ABN Trust Services, Leonard Westphal.
01:42 Leonard, thank you so much. - glad to see you.
01:44 Well it is always a joy to have you here. - thank you.
01:47 This is going to be, I think, an exciting topic.
01:50 A topic that we really do need to speak about.
01:53 Today we're going to be actually focusing in on some
01:58 things that Ellen White had to say about wills and how
02:01 she handled her own finances, I think you will find this
02:05 very interesting.
02:07 Jeff how did you get involved in this ministry?
02:10 Well it has been a long course, I began as a Pastor in
02:17 the previous century, a long, long time ago.
02:19 I've been a Youth Director, I directed the Youth Department
02:22 right here in Illinois Conference for a number of years
02:26 - praise God! Had a summer camp quite close here down
02:29 in Makanda Illinois at little Grassy Lake.
02:31 Then we have done development work and public-relations
02:35 work in various conferences and various institutions of
02:39 the Church including the Media Center and Andrews University.
02:44 But actually since 1999, I came to the General Conference
02:48 from Andrews University and in the year 2000 I was elected
02:52 as the Director of the Department.
02:54 What we are thrilled to have you here and I know it is
02:57 a great sacrifice of time for you to come here.
02:59 Leonard, how long have you and Jeff known one another?
03:03 Jeff is a dear friend of mine, we are, I think, more than
03:07 brothers and my wife likes him very much.
03:10 In fact she just told me last night that this must be
03:13 a holy man, the sacrifices he made to be here and help us
03:16 in talking about the very subject we are talking about
03:19 today is just immense.
03:20 He left his wife there and he was attending the Annual
03:24 Council of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Washington
03:27 where all the leaders of the world come, and yet Jeff
03:31 took time off to come here.
03:34 So I know him probably 20, 25 years you know.
03:38 I joined this department, I was a Pastor-Evangelist for
03:45 17 years and then I was called into this ministry 28 years
03:50 ago I didn't know I was going to last one year because
03:56 I thought it's not my calling you know.
03:58 Yet the Lord blessed and I have been in it 28 years and am
04:03 enjoying every day because I believe the Lord leads and
04:07 guides us in this work bringing to us the right people
04:11 who want to help the Lord's work.
04:13 So we thank the Lord everyday.
04:15 We are just so thankful at 3ABN, we really appreciate the
04:19 work that you and your lovely wife Rita do.
04:21 I know that you make a lot of personal sacrifices as well.
04:24 By the way I didn't tell you that I have been with 3ABN
04:27 10 solid years. - yes, praise the Lord.
04:30 - 10 solid years, I haven't even seen the time pass.
04:33 Well, when you're having fun time passes quickly.
04:37 Today we are going to be talking about wills.
04:40 You know money is such an important topic, because money
04:44 causes so many problems in the families, it is the number
04:48 one reason people get divorces.
04:50 You can sometimes give your children too much money and
04:54 spoil them, but the Bible says, it is the love of money
04:58 that is the root of all evil.
04:59 There is nothing evil about money, and God often
05:02 blessed, we find in the old and New Testaments God often blessed
05:06 people with wealth just for the express purpose that
05:10 they could help get His work done here on Earth.
05:13 We are going to be talking about the importance of wills.
05:17 I'm surprised personally Jeff, how many people die without
05:21 a will, what did Ellen White have to say about this topic?
05:25 Well Ellen White of course was one of the founders of the
05:29 Seventh-day Adventist church.
05:31 She was born in 1827 and lived until 1915.
05:35 Which was a miracle in itself because as a young girl
05:39 she suffered a serious accident to her face and head,
05:44 and had poor health anyway and was not expected
05:46 to live beyond her childhood.
05:48 But she lived to the ripe old age of 87 and actually
05:52 traveled the world, it was much more difficult to travel
05:56 in her day then in ours.
05:57 Months and months across the ocean, she spent time in
06:01 Europe as a missionary.
06:02 Time in Australia and New Zealand as a missionary.
06:06 Established hospitals and schools and gospel work all
06:10 around the world.
06:11 And one of our challenges in our work that Leonard and
06:16 I and about 325 other people involved in this work in the
06:21 world face, is the fact you mentioned Shelley, the horrible
06:26 low percentage of people who even have the will.
06:29 Some numbers are as low as about one third of the
06:33 people of the general population as a will.
06:35 The highest would be around 50%, so for a number of years
06:39 I've used some statements that Ellen White made about
06:43 the importance of having a will.
06:46 That a person should have a will that withstand the test
06:49 of law and that they should remember of course their
06:52 family, and those dependent upon them, the Bible is clear
06:55 on that 1 Timothy 5.
06:56 But they should also remember God's work and remember that
07:02 God indeed is the one who loaned them everything that
07:05 they have and when we are through with it we should return
07:09 it to its rightful owner which would be the Lord.
07:11 Ah, but only recently did I decide to study what did she
07:17 actually do herself?
07:20 That was a very interesting study to do.
07:23 In the General Conference building in Silver Spring
07:28 Maryland, everyday people come there to do tours like they
07:33 do here at 3ABN.
07:34 Nobody ever asks to come and see my office, but most
07:38 people want to go down into the basement where there is
07:41 no windows, and they go down there to a very intriguing
07:45 place called the Ellen G. White Estates Inc.
07:48 there they can go into a vault and see these original
07:52 documents, they can see the huge Bible that Ellen White
07:56 held aloft for a long period of time.
07:58 Under a glass they can see her will.
08:00 You know I missed her will when it was there, the thing
08:03 that fascinated me the most was her library.
08:06 - yeah. - I wanted to see what types of books.
08:09 I actually got a copy, you know I had them print off
08:14 a copy of the contents of her library.
08:16 It is interesting for a woman who really had to quit school,
08:20 the grade school because of her health.
08:23 I'm sure you will enjoy going to that list of books
08:26 and finding some that will be of real
08:28 spiritual blessing to you.
08:30 But of great interest is that will under glass in which
08:36 you can see what she wrote down, her instructions in 1912,
08:41 that's about 91 years ago, well 91 years since she passed
08:46 away, and her work is going on today in the Ellen G. White
08:52 Estates under the authority of her will.
08:56 There are trustees who, the original ones were named by
08:59 Ellen White, and then in her will she provided that these
09:02 persons could fill in any vacancies that came along.
09:06 So today you have the Ellen G. White Estates trustees who
09:11 go back to that will, and the work they do in translating
09:15 her writings into other languages, producing new
09:19 compilations, protecting her works and spreading the
09:24 gospel around the world is a function of a will that
09:29 she prepared in her later years.
09:31 Now want to get back to how she divided the assets, but
09:33 I would like to bring up this point, because that was her
09:36 third will actually, right? - fourth I think.
09:40 The fourth will, okay. Some people don't understand that
09:44 wills, I can't believe anyone who has children,
09:48 if you don't have a will, please listen to this program.
09:52 Because some people think that wills are only if you amassed
09:56 a lot of assets that you can then say how
10:00 to divide these assets, but as you have just said,
10:03 she has given instruction in how to appoint trustees,
10:07 how they should run this trust that she has,
10:11 her foundation.
10:13 Parents can give instruction as to who they would like
10:16 to rear their children.
10:18 Please, if you will, take a moment and tell us why it is
10:22 so important to have a will.
10:23 Well it is extremely important for anyone of any age,
10:28 that is age of majority 18 years and older.
10:31 There are different major changes in our lives,
10:35 when we get married, when we are out of the nest at home
10:37 first of all out of our parents custody.
10:40 Then we get married, when children come along, a very
10:43 important time that you just mentioned Shelley.
10:46 Then when the children are out of the nest and then when
10:49 we get older and move from place to place, or we lose
10:52 a spouse, or remarriage or whatever.
10:54 But your point of young couples who have small children
10:58 at home often feel we have more debt than we have
11:00 assets so we don't need a will, they are looking
11:03 at only the money issue.
11:05 But a will is the only legal document by which a person
11:11 can name surrogate parents, guardians for minor children.
11:16 If parents, God forbid should lose their lives before
11:21 their children are 18, and they have no will, then the
11:25 probate judge is going to make a determination
11:29 where to place those children.
11:30 He may place them in a Christian home, he might not place
11:35 them in a Christian home.
11:37 One issue is, at least that I have seen in a lot of young
11:40 couples, they may be the only Christians
11:43 in their immediate family.
11:45 They have siblings but they are not in the faith.
11:47 The judge probably would put them with a sibling
11:50 who had the most money, we might place them with a couple
11:56 in the church that has the same values that we have
11:59 and we would know the children would be in Sabbath
12:02 School and church and church school and pathfinders
12:05 and all these kind of things.
12:06 Have the diet that we wanted them to have.
12:08 They would be raised for the kingdom, not just the dollar
12:11 figure, the dollar figure might not be the most important
12:16 for us, so that an extremely important reason for people
12:20 even for people with not many financial assets, but they
12:25 have human assets, their children.
12:27 They have a stewardship responsibility too as well.
12:30 You know I had a will when I was single, and then when
12:34 I got married, within two months after marriage
12:37 we sat down and redid our wills.
12:39 But for example, even in Ellen White's own life, she had her
12:43 will and everything Leonard, she had it all sewn up didn't she?
12:47 But now I understand that James White died without a will.
12:52 When James White died, of course he died prematurely in
12:57 1881, he died without a will.
12:59 So his estate was probated in what we call in Testate.
13:03 Under the laws of the State of Michigan, this is what
13:07 was going to happen.
13:09 Ellen White would get 50%, James Edison, the son would get
13:14 25%, Willie the other son will get 25%.
13:17 Well about all Ellen White at that time was her little Elm
13:22 street house in Battle Creek, so to provide for the probate
13:27 she would have had to sell the house, because she didn't have
13:31 the other 50% to buy the boys out,
13:33 she would have essentially been homeless.
13:36 Well James Edison and Willie said mother we will forgo
13:39 our inheritance, you keep the house.
13:42 That is what I think most people would want, if one or
13:46 the other of us passes away, we want everything to go to
13:49 our surviving spouse and when the surviving spouse passes
13:52 away then we distribute to the children and so forth.
13:55 Because James White didn't have a will, there was a crisis
13:59 there and if the boys said, mother we want our money now
14:03 like the prodigal son did, she could've been living in
14:07 a cardboard box or something like that,
14:09 or a rented apartment somewhere.
14:11 So Ellen White remembered that, and in her later years
14:15 she was generous with her children in other ways,
14:19 remembering they forgone their inheritance back in 1881.
14:23 Of interest that Ellen White did, I think it is an
14:27 encouragement for other people, she didn't wait until
14:31 she died to do all her giving. - Amen!
14:34 She wanted to see the blessing of it now, and so she
14:39 for example, to her two granddaughters when
14:42 they got married, she gave them $700 each.
14:45 Well that would be quite a bit of money today,
14:48 to help them get started out in their new homes.
14:52 Her 16-year-old twin grandsons, when they were 16 years
14:56 old she gave him a plot of land of her property there
15:01 in Elmshaven and they cleared that land and sell it so that
15:06 the money could go to help them with their college education.
15:10 Well I think that was neat, she didn't just give them
15:13 a gift, she gave him a gift that they had to work and
15:16 sweat a little bit and improve the land and even get some
15:19 experience of how to sell real estate and then,
15:22 of course not to spend that frivolously, but to spend
15:25 it on their Christian education.
15:27 So she made a lot of gifts along the way before
15:31 the final gift in her will.
15:33 I received a letter from a man who said, if I can
15:37 remember how to quote this, he said, I'm a given while
15:40 I'm liven so I know-en where it's go-in.
15:42 He said, he wanted his money, his point was he had two
15:47 very spoiled young children and he said, they have been
15:52 spoiled all their life and did not handle money
15:54 in a prudent fashion.
15:56 He was beginning to sell off some assets to make sure
15:59 that it went to the ministries he wanted to support and
16:02 that was supporting God's work.
16:04 I thought that was quite impressive.
16:07 I just wanted to mention that there is a lesson to learn
16:10 from what Ellen G. White did.
16:12 Many people, and we talked a lot of people who says, oh
16:15 I have a will that was done 20 years ago, 30 years ago.
16:19 But things have changed in our lives, we don't know what,
16:22 maybe the spouse died, or his son died, or a daughter.
16:26 Somebody who they are remembering and they are gone.
16:30 So you must and should really, up-date the will which
16:34 is done very simply.
16:35 You can have what is called today a codicil,
16:38 which is merely an amendment to the will.
16:40 Or you can make a new will, it doesn't cost very much,
16:45 normally $75 where we are, sometimes lawyers charge more.
16:50 It all depends what they are talking about as far as
16:53 the estate is concerned.
16:55 But the beauty of what I see here that Ellen G. White
16:58 updated her will, she had four, that is something
17:01 we ought to remember because if you don't the will, will not
17:06 do what we expected to do. That is very important.
17:10 Also I would say that everybody who is 18 or over should
17:15 have a will, the age of maturity here is 18 right?
17:20 Do you think about these kits that you can buy that are
17:23 quite inexpensive and you can just prepare your own will.
17:26 Do you think it is necessary to go to an attorney,
17:28 or will one of these kits work?
17:30 I have a question Jeff, of course you have heard so many,
17:34 many times, but let me say this.
17:36 I think it ought to be done by a professional attorney.
17:39 An attorney, a professional because you may make mistakes
17:43 and then it may not be valid in court you see.
17:45 So I would suggest to spend $50, $75, $125 and have an
17:53 attorney do it and then you are sure.
17:55 But then update it, keep updating it.
17:58 I think it is wise to get professional help.
18:04 It is amazing that people who don't want to spend any
18:08 money to protect everything they have, we drive an
18:12 automobile, but we spend money on insurance to protect the
18:15 automobile and us should we be involved in an accident.
18:19 We have accumulated a certain amount of assets over our
18:22 life time, doesn't it make sense that we should spend
18:24 some money to protect that?
18:27 The good news is, in the church many of our conferences
18:32 and institutions, when the church is being remembered,
18:36 will actually pick up even those drafting charges from the
18:40 attorneys so a person can get an estate plan at no cost.
18:44 But even if one should spend several hundred, sometimes
18:47 with a trust it may be thousands of dollars.
18:50 It is money well spent.
18:51 Now Ellen White in 1912 she engaged the services of an
18:57 attorney down in San Francisco and his name was
18:59 Theodore A. Bell, and she paid $25.85.
19:03 I try to calculate that out and it would be equivalent to
19:07 around $550 today, so she spent a lot of money.
19:11 Remember that hers was a simple will, it not only passed
19:15 assets to children and other family members, but it
19:19 established a corporation, it established trustees and an
19:24 ongoing trust that would protect her literary properties and
19:29 see them be printed, spread and all that so it was
19:34 a complicated document.
19:36 What Ellen White did was, she sought counsel from the
19:40 Lord, she prayed about it a lot, she sought counsel from her
19:43 family, and from the church leaders, and then she engaged
19:47 the services of a professional attorney in San Francisco.
19:51 She probably could have found one closer to home for
19:54 a little less money, but she wanted an experienced
19:56 professional who could do a good job, and he did a good
19:59 job because it has lasted now for well over a 100 years.
20:02 There's two questions I want to ask you because it occurs
20:05 to me that some of our viewers may not know who Ellen
20:08 White is other than you had established that she was
20:12 one of the founders of this church, but also she was the
20:17 most published woman in the world and how many literary
20:21 works did she do? And how did she divide her assets?
20:25 Because the income from these literary works,
20:28 What did she do with them?
20:29 Well I'm not sure how many books she wrote, because
20:32 there are always new compilations that are coming out
20:35 I know there are tens of thousands of manuscripts that
20:39 she wrote, and I have a picture of her grandson,
20:42 Arthur White, standing beside a stack of her books that
20:46 is taller than he is, he wasn't a tall man but still
20:49 they were taller than he is.
20:50 What Ellen White ended up doing was dividing her estate
20:56 like this, 25% to family, 75% to God's work.
21:02 Now I hasten to say that is not inspired, that is not
21:07 what an example that everyone should do.
21:10 Often people ask Leonard and I, well how much do we leave
21:14 for God's work? And we say, we can't tell you that.
21:17 Well what do other people do? We can say we have seen
21:20 people leave nothing to God's work, that makes us very
21:23 nervous. We've seen people leave everything to God's work
21:26 and when there is family around that makes us rather
21:28 nervous. And we seen everything in between.
21:31 We've seen people who lets say had three children,
21:34 so they left so they make God's work a child and gave
21:37 25% to God's work and 25% for each three children.
21:41 That is a decision that people need to make overtime and
21:44 with much prayer. - Amen! - because for some children
21:48 to leave them resources they are dependent on that,
21:52 they need that, others it would be perhaps wasted,
21:56 and it's that good use of stewardship?
21:58 That is the question we need to ask.
22:00 For Ellen White, she made a decision of 25% and 75%.
22:05 The 25%, she had two sons, James Edison, and Willie.
22:10 She had people living in her home who were her assistants,
22:14 who were family, they weren't blood relatives but they
22:17 were family, they had worked for a small stipend.
22:22 They lived in her home, so she remembered them in specific
22:26 ways because she wanted to help them along life's way.
22:30 They were indeed sort of dependent upon her.
22:32 So in that 25% were her sons plus these other individuals
22:37 that were, and this is another point.
22:39 If a person dies without a will, the judge will
22:43 distribute the property to blood relatives.
22:47 If there are none it would probably go to the state.
22:50 But you and I might have someone that is not a blood
22:53 relative, but they are a loved one, or a close friend, there
22:56 someone is dependent upon us, or someone we want to leave
22:59 something to, without a will it will not go to that friend
23:03 or loved one that is not a direct family member.
23:06 Without a will there is a hefty chunk that the state
23:10 actually takes out up front as well, is that not true?
23:15 Well there would be probate costs, and without a will
23:19 it is going to be more expense, yes.
23:24 Let me hasten to add too, some people, as Jeff was saying,
23:29 don't want to leave anything to the children.
23:31 Nothing to the Lord's work, but when they asked us for advice
23:37 what shall we do with our estate? We do not give them
23:40 advice, we tell them that it's between you and your spouse
23:44 and the Lord, you pray about it, then have the Lord inspire
23:47 you about what to do. That is what we tell everybody.
23:50 I just had a case of a man, a wealthy man,
23:54 he's a millionaire and he had two children and he wanted
24:03 to leave part of the estate to the children.
24:06 But it was interesting that the wife opposed and said no
24:10 I don't want to leave anything to our children.
24:12 Anything to our children.
24:14 And that puts us in a very bad situation because you see
24:18 when the parents are gone, the children may say listen
24:23 the church or the Ministry took our estate and
24:27 they become angry at the parents and at the Ministry.
24:31 So I was able, with the Lord's help, to convince them
24:33 they ought to remember their children, and they did.
24:37 I am happy for that, but that is how people are.
24:40 We are all different you know, but it is very vital to
24:44 remember of course our loved ones because I have seen
24:48 very sad cases throughout my experience and the people
24:52 become so upset with the mom and daddy and eventually
24:56 the church and the organization.
24:58 You have been through those experiences Jeff too.
25:00 Well I do know that, in planning your will and estate,
25:05 there are so many people that are wealthy and they know
25:09 what their state taxes are about to run, they can even get
25:13 life insurance that will cover the cost of those estate
25:16 taxes there are many benefits, but if you have nothing,
25:19 we all have treasured possessions and we know somebody
25:23 that would like to have them.
25:25 Yes I think even people with modest means know where they
25:30 would like their things to go. - sure.
25:32 The other point is, we do not know what our final estate
25:35 will be, we might be out here on the highway and be run
25:38 over, and for younger people the most common, would be an
25:42 accident in which there might be wrongful death
25:44 settlements and the estate could be much larger than they
25:46 had thought, and of course if they have life insurance
25:49 that would be there too.
25:51 So for all those reasons, we feel that even if a person
25:55 has a modest estate, they need a will, even if they have
25:58 got a lot they need a will. All those in between.
26:01 It's a part of our stewardship.
26:03 If I've borrow a tool from you I have a responsibility to
26:08 return it when I am through using it.
26:10 If I kept it for myself, that would be stealing even
26:12 though I borrowed it from you.
26:14 Well everything we have is loaned from the Lord and
26:18 we have ultimately a chance to return it to the Lord.
26:20 That is so true. Now we only have about a minute left
26:23 and there is two things I want to ask you.
26:24 Number one, I understand that none of her royalties go to
26:27 family members, that is all going back into the work of
26:30 the Lord, is that correct for the Ellen White?
26:32 - that's true. What principles did she best exhibit,
26:37 or manifest in the way she handled her estate?
26:41 She took time to work out these details.
26:44 She sought professional and family advice,
26:47 which was very important.
26:48 She remembered her loved ones generously and she as
26:53 well remembered God's work generously.
26:57 She remembered the broad aspects of God's work, the
27:02 training of ministers and teachers, our mission program,
27:05 our medical work, all those areas.
27:10 The publishing work were remembered in her will,
27:13 so she was broad in her giving during her life time and
27:17 she was brought in her giving after death.
27:19 And she did most of her giving before she passed away.
27:24 And that follows right along with 1 Timothy 5:8 too.
27:27 Take care of your family while they are in need.
27:31 Well I hope you have been blessed by this program.
27:34 I just want to thank you Jeff, and thank you Leonard
27:37 for joining us today.
27:39 And for those of you at home, please take this advice,
27:43 get a will, make a will and now we just want to say we
27:47 hope that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of
27:50 the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be
27:54 with you today and every day throughout the rest
27:57 of your life. Thank you for joining us, bye!


Revised 2014-12-17