According to many surveys, 95 percent of Americans believe in G-d or some type of higher power. While some define religion as a belief in G-d, not all religions do. For some, spirituality may be a vital part of their lives, but not include a belief in G-d. Whatever your religious views or spiritual nature, your estate planning should be consistent with your beliefs and preferences, or even lack thereof.
The most common approach is often a hybrid. Some people will have their documents adhere to all the strictures of their faith, but exclude restrictions on cessation of heroic medical measures for fear of being kept alive in a vegetative state. Others prefer no religious customs or restrictions in any of their planning, but wish only that a funeral and burial be in accordance with their religious traditions. I have created multiple “Kosher” Healthcare Proxies where the instruction to the Proxy involves consolation of a named Rabbi. The key is to tailor your documents and communications to accomplish your goals, but with sensitivity and compassion to minimize the potential for negative impact on others.
Agents and fiduciaries should be given guidance, and granted legal authority, to disburse funds for religious education (e.g. supplemental religious education or private school), religious travel, charitable giving (to inculcate a core religious value in heirs), and other purposes consistent with your religious goals. Boilerplate distribution provisions in many documents just won’t suffice.
Your selection of trustees will have a profound impact on the transmission of values. Providing a detailed and personal letter of instruction about the care and upbringing of young children is essential to transmit values.
In summary, estate planning should be a holistic multi-disciplinary process that addresses all of your important goals.
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