Religious Concerns in Estate Planning
The areas of estate, asset and tax planning seem mechanical, dry, and technical. They certainly seem far divorced from something like religion or religious beliefs. But estate planning isn’t just about laws; it’s about people, and those people often have devout religious beliefs that they may want reflected or avoided in their estate plan. There are a number of ways that religious clients can make sure that they are abiding by their religion when creating an estate plan.
Distributions by Representatives
The most obvious way of recognizing or supporting one’s religion is the authorizing of distributions to a religious organization. In fact, many religions mandate leaving a certain percentage of an estate to the religion. But whether your religion mandates it or you want to do it voluntarily, it’s important to tell your estate attorney about your wishes.
Any estate documents should likewise have instructions that permit your personal representative or any trustee to make payments to religious organizations. This is especially true if there are members of your immediate family who aren’t as religious as you are, or who may disagree with your decision to give to a religion.
Instead of leaving the matter for everybody to fight about later on, a well drafted estate plan that provides express permission for a trustee or representative to fund religious organizations or causes can avoid ambiguity and disagreement. Additionally, you may want your representative or fiduciary to be someone that has special knowledge of the tenets of your faith, and that may take time to find. This means starting your estate planning earlier than you otherwise might have.
Other Religious Concerns
You may find that your personal wishes conflict with your religious obligations. For example, many religions may restrict leaving family out of a will, but you may have personal reasons for doing so. Of course, the decision is ultimately not a legal one, but a personal one. But these are decisions you may want to think about in advance, making it again important to start on an estate plan earlier than you might do otherwise.
Other religious concerns may be dispute resolution. If there is a conflict, will it be resolved through normal arbitration or mediation, or dispute resolution through a church or temple? Some religions may even have their own “courts” or bodies that resolve disputes, which you may want your relatives to submit to instead of a traditional court.
Many religions also regulate how interest can be charged, or received. That needs to be considered if there is any property that is held in an interest bearing account, or if any of your money may be loaned to others. A trustee looking to maximize the estate may end up charging interest on money loaned that your religion prohibits.
Remember you can make whatever choices that you want when it comes to religious observations. The only thing that is mandatory is telling your estate attorneys what your wishes are, so your estate can reflect what you want. Contact Tampa business attorney David Toback to discuss a comprehensive estate plan.