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Religious faith can influence estate planning, but should be approached carefully, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about the ways religious faith can affect estate planning, for better or for worse. Obviously, families are complicated, and when it comes to religious faith, not everybody shares the same views. Allowing one’s faith to influence one’s estate planning may best be approached in conjunction with the goal of maintaining family harmony. Disinheriting an heir for not sharing one’s religious faith may not be the best approach, at least not for every family.

There are a variety of positive ways one can incorporate one’s religious faith into estate planning . Living wills and health care proxies are one area that should be carefully considered, both with respect to concrete forms of care and medical decision-making for unexpected situations. One should select a health care proxy that fully understands and shares one’s ethical and religious understanding of health care.

Similarly with durable powers of attorney, one should select those who understand and share one’s religious faith and who also understand one’s particular wishes on issues such as charitable giving, religious education of children, and similar matters.

In addition to our earlier comments regarding specific bequests based on religious faith, it is worth mentioning that one’s will should identify any charitable gifts one wishes to make, as well as wishes for disposition of body.


One may, of course, have no religious faith at all, and want that to be reflected in one’s estate plan. That is also perfectly legitimate, although the same advice applies: one should try to take into account the religious faith of family members and plan so that family harmony is the likeliest outcome. This will not be entirely possible for every family, but it is important to keep in mind if one’s aim is to establish a solid estate plan.

Source : Wall Street Journal, “Joining Church and Estate ,” Rachel Emma Silverman, April 30, 2012