Proper estate planning involves respecting client wishes about distribution of assets while creating legal documents to avoid probate, save estate taxes, and plan for disability. Many plans include similar components, but there is flexibility so that each client’s unique goals and preferences are accommodated. For example, many area community members work hard to adhere to their religious principles in all areas of their lives–including their New York estate plan.
A new article posted at Wealth Journal recently explained how few areas of the law are as entangled with religious issues as estate planning. Many components of an estate plan may be influenced by one’s religious or spiritual beliefs, from traditional rules about asset distribution to statements about medical decisions and funeral arrangements. For example, traditions like Judaism, Islam and Orthodox Christianity have detailed rules of inheritance that some may wish to follow as closely as possible. Similarly, it may be important to leave detailed instructions for trustees on how funds should be dispersed in accordance with those religious traditions and values.
Most residents usually apply a hybrid approach to blending their religious belief with their estate plan. One many wish to avoid following any religious custom except for burial and funeral arrangements. Others may seek strict adherence except restrictions on cessation of heroic medical measures. There is seemingly an endless combination of approaches that one might seek to balance in their estate plan. Of course, whatever one’s desires it is crucial to have open and honest discussions with loved ones about these issues so that they can be communicated effectively during the planning process. In our area it is also important to contact an experienced New York estate planning attorney who can effectively integrate religious wishes into a plan that simultaneously respects legal, tax, and ethical issues.
Interestingly, the same general advice also applies to those who specifically want no religious components in their plan. It is often a mistake to assume that the default rules will lead to no religious involvement in end of life affairs. It may be important to use estate planning documents to expressly indicate a preference for no observances to override incorrect assumptions by friends and family members. Without such clear guidance there is a chance that a third party could impose religious traditions on some end of life issues like funeral and burial decisions.
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