The Importance of Religion When Planning Your Estate

Estate planning is important because it protects your assets for your family and can help minimize wait times for disbursement while ensuring your wishes are carried out. One important aspect of planning your estate is creating a will that will detail things like where your assets will go after you pass away and who will become the guardian of your children. What many people don’t know when drafting their wills and estate plans is that you can craft your will based on your religious beliefs. 

 

Religion should play an essential role in estate and end-of-life planning. Your religious concerns can be integrated into your legal documents, addressing religious and cultural issues. When it comes to how to write a will, there are a few things that you will need to consider when making sure that your religious beliefs are addressed. 

Fiduciaries 

When you’re planning your estate with an attorney, you’ll select fiduciaries. A fiduciary can be a person or an organization that will act on your behalf. They are bound legally and are required to ethically act in your best interest. When choosing your fiduciary, it’s important to find someone who has knowledge of your particular faith, observes the faith him or herself, or has a sensitivity to your specific needs. 

 

In many cases, the person who has a deep understanding of your religion will be the best suited to handle their responsibilities as they’ll be sensitive to your concerns. 

Distribution 

Your fiduciary will be granted legal authority to disburse funds for any religious education, including private school, religious travel like pilgrimages, giving to charity, and other purposes that are consistent with your religious beliefs.

Giving to Charity

Part of religion is giving to charity and making charitable contributions that are tailored to reflect the values of your particular faith. Your religion may have specific standards when it comes to charity, which makes it necessary that your will and estate plan reflect your wants. 

 

It’s common for religious individuals to give to charities upon their death and allow agents under powers of attorney to make contributions in the form of gifts or trusts. 

Heroic Measures

Heroic measures, also known as extraordinary life-sustaining treatments, are provisions that exist in a living will that can be directly impacted by someone’s religious beliefs. These provisions ensure that you can choose how to end your life if you’re given the decision to make. You can choose to pass naturally or you can choose to be revived. 

 

Individuals with religious sensitivities should be aware of these provisions so that they can make any necessary changes to their living will. For example, a Catholic can choose to avoid excessive means of care while still allowing ordinary means of care, such as being fed by another. The Catholic church believes that a patient should continue to receive ordinary care, but not excessive or extraordinary means of care that could reverse a natural process that is already underway. This can mean anything from having surgery or using antibiotics. 

 

When it comes to planning for your end of life, make sure that you can keep your religious beliefs in your living will to ensure that you’re taken care of the way you want. 

 

 

Medical Decisions Involving Pregnancy

A medical decision involving a mother and her fetus can also be an important factor of your will that should be addressed when you’re pregnant. Catholicism forbids any action that would directly cause the death of an unborn child or the mother. For this religion, the life of the mother should not be chosen over the life of the child, and the life of the child should not be chosen over the mother. In this example, the right to choose who lives and who isn’t is in God’s hands. 

 

This needs to be addressed in your living will because your attorney may not know the limits or your faith when creating all of the necessary legal documents. Your health care provider cannot be expected to have knowledge about your wishes prior to carrying out any procedures that may be life-saving without your clear guidance. 

Relieving Pain 

One goal of your doctor is to help you remain comfortable when you’re experiencing pain. This is what most people want for themselves when they experience discomfort as well. However, there are exceptions, such as Orthodox Christians who believe the act of suffering can be a purification and redemption experience. 

 

Using pain-relieving medications that may leave someone unconscious during their final days can prevent them from observing their religious beliefs before they pass away. In the case of Orthodox Christians, patients are encouraged to be awake during their final days to confess their sins and receive Communion. 

 

If your doctors are not aware of your beliefs, they won’t know to respect your wishes and will instead provide you with the type of care that is expected of them. 

Funeral Arrangements

Most religions have customs for funeral arrangements and what’s to take place after you pass away. Jews, for instance, prohibit autopsies and embalming. When drafting your will, make sure to include guidance for what should or should not happen to your body after you pass away. Some religions don’t allow cremation while others encourage it, so it’s important you address these traditions with your attorney or when drafting your own will so that you know your wishes can be carried out. 

Assets After Death

Your religion can also impact your disposition of assets after you pass away. The Quran and Old Testament both detail how assets and inheritance should be handled. These actions should be coordinated with tax, estate, financial, and ethical issues to ensure that your assets are given to your loved ones in accordance with your beliefs. 

Final Thoughts

Legal documents for estate planning can be tailored to fit your individual religious needs. Your religion can impact everything from who gets your assets when you pass away to who will ensure your beliefs are passed down to your children. When modifying your will or estate plan, make sure that you include all of the religious beliefs that you believe should be carried out on your behalf. 


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