Thursday, March 8, 2012

Plan for Your Religious Needs at Death: “How to Make Sure Your Wishes aren’t Ignored"

When it comes to estate planning, most of us are aware of the common things we need to discuss with our attorney.  There are so many financial concerns, legal concerns, and even personal concerns regarding a person’s inheritance and other desires.  

However, when it comes down to honoring our deepest religious or spiritual desires, many people overlook the necessity of incorporating such wishes into their estate.  When religion plays an important role in someone’s life, it makes sense that it would also be important in the legacy they leave behind. 
Many estate planning attorneys from Fairfax don’t necessarily focus a lot of their expertise on the religious aspects of planning, which makes sense.  After all, there are so many religions that it would be impossible for one attorney to be well versed in them all.  However, if there are religious preferences you would like to see incorporated into your estate plan, a skilled attorney in Fairfax or Northern Virginia can help you legally document the wishes of your faith.
Where to Find the Information You Need

Fortunately, there is information available to help you and your estate planning attorney uphold religious preferences in your estate planning that deeply matter to you.  Many institutions have already put together informative brochures or packets to help guide you through the religious aspect of your estate planning.  They often have sample forms that you can print and take directly with you when you meet your lawyer. 
This information can also help you to become clear on what your estate planning goals are in reference to your religion.  By setting out your goals in advance, you and your attorney can then go about setting up action steps that ensure your estate plans fit in with your values and beliefs.

Some Estate Planning Areas Affected by Religion

It’s almost surprising how many aspects of estate planning are truly affected when one starts looking at them from a religious perspective.  The most obvious area, of course, has to do with funeral and burial arrangements.  Is there a specific type of ceremony or location for the service that is important in your faith?  Are there religious considerations that need to be met?  You will likely want these included in your will, as well as your Health Care Directive (living will).

A living will and health proxies can certainly be affected by religious beliefs.  For example, what is your religion’s official stance on life support, blood transfusions, or other medical acts?  If you’re unsure but want to be in accordance with the teachings of your faith, then it is up to you to learn the answers to these questions, typically before you meet with your Fairfax elder law and trusts and estates attorney.

Even the bequeathing of your estate can be directed by your religion.  Some require specific portions of an estate be left to predetermined heirs, for example.  In addition, you may either wish or be compelled to designate a portion of your estate for your particular faith community.  Your Fairfax Virginia elder law and estates lawyer can help you determine how best to do this, whether through a specific gift or by setting up a trust.

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