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FaithFor many parents, their primary goal in estate planning is not to pass down their wealth, but to continue to teach their ethics, morals, worldview, and even religious beliefs to their children.  A good and comprehensive estate plan can provide you with that exact opportunity in many different situations.  This blog addresses some of those opportunities to express your beliefs.

End-of-Life Care

When you are medically incapacitated and cannot take care of yourself, a Medical Power of Attorney allows someone that you trust and appointed to make those decisions for you.  Because you have control over who you name, you can take into account other people’s religious faith as you decide who to take care of you.  You may also find yourself in a situation where you have to rely on machines to artificially prolong your life.  A Living Will is the document in which you say what you want to happen to you in that situation.  The decision to whether prolong your life or not is personal and is often informed by a person’s faith and values.

Additionally, you can state your preferences about organ donation, forms of religious rites, pain medication, and if you want to go into an assisted-living facility.

Funeral and Burial Arrangements

Most religions address death.  You can express your beliefs by stating whether you want to be buried, cremated, or a different method.  Your estate plan can give you the opportunity to express your desires and to make any specific plans for a memorial service.

Charitable Giving

Helping the poor and less fortunate is an important tenet in many religions.  Your estate plan allows you to gift to a church, hospital, or some other non-profit or charitable organization that you wish.  AS you continue to show how important charitable giving is to you, you are an example to your loved ones and they too may give to charity.

Distributions to Children and Grandchildren

One of the more central parts of an estate plan is passing on your property to your children and grandchildren.  This requires careful planning, a guiding vision and belief, and an understanding of your descendants.  You can use this opportunity to express your faith.  You can appoint someone with similar beliefs to administer your estate, name a guardian for minor children who shares your faith, or use distributions to incentivize your descendants to get a religious education or participate in religious activities.

A word of caution: you should not draft penalties for not having your faith, as a court may strike that language out of your estate plan if it is challenged.  It may also cause strife and emotional wounds among your family.

Final Thoughts on Sharing Your Faith

You know from life’s experiences that you cannot transfer your faith and morals to others immediately.  You know that it takes time.  While estate planning provides you with a platform to teach your loved ones, it is only a piece of the puzzle.  You should consider how you are taking advantage of your time with your family now and decide how to teach and share now.  Be an example, give to charity, be active in your religious community, and express your love for your family.  Help them understand how your faith has helped and blessed your life, and express those feelings in person and perhaps even in writing.  As you express your faith during life and through your estate plan, you may indeed help your loved ones with their own faith.