How To Incorporate Faith and Values into your Estate Plan

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9th Jan 2015

More often than not, individuals planning their estate desire to incorporate their faith and values as part of their estate plan.  Oftentimes, those making these decisions feel that the heirs honoring their faith and value beliefs to be as important as to where their money or property is going.

The good news is that there are several different ways these can be incorporated into your estate plan.

A. Wills

  1. We all want to be remembered and everyone leaves something behind. Many of our clients are now incorporating “Ethical Wills” into their estate plan.
  2. A general Will is used to distribute your assets through a probate action with the court. An Ethical Will is a way to record, preserve and share your values; beliefs; life lessons; hopes forgiveness, and hopes for the future with your loved ones, friends and community.  As Lao-tse noted “what I hear, I forget, what I see, I remember, what I do, I understand.”


B.  It may even be a charity you’ve supported during your lifetime that you want to continue to support for years to come. You may wish to leave a dollar amount or  a percentage, or perhaps you want to establish a trust to provide income or principal distributions to the charity for years to come.


C.  Creating distribution provisions for your loved one is another option, by personalizing the ways money can be used. You may want distributions to your grandchildren to be for education only, or a religious education, or anything else that is important to you.

Likewise some individuals choose to limit, or withhold distributions, especially for younger beneficiaries, to encourage hard work and self-sufficiency.

Writing letters or making videos for your children, grandchildren, and other loved ones can be a special, personalized way to share the faith and values you hold.  If you have minor children, writing a letter for that potential guardian who may someday be raising your children, on how you would like your child raised, can be important as well.

Similar to executing a power of attorney, you may consider executing a medical and end-of-life wishes document tailored around your faith or other values.  This is sometimes easier to name a person who shares your same values or beliefs.  This should be in writing and discussed with them prior to your decision to name that person.

Similar to a Health Care Directive or Power of Attorney for medical care, which  may be influenced by your faith and values include medication and procedures, care in certain facilities, wishes if you have a termination illness or are in a permanent vegetative state, or organ donation, in your durable power of attorney for finances, you should consider naming an agent who manages your finances who shares your same financial values.

With final burial or memorial services, we suggest discussing these issues with your loved ones ahead of time and memorialize this in writing.  Keep this “letter of last instruction” in a safe place.  Preplanning your own memorial is a great idea, too, which can save your loved ones the stress of making those difficult decisions during a time of grief.

If you have any aspects of your faith or values that are important to incorporate into your estate plan, talk over your options with an estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes are fulfilled and your legacy is passed on to the next generation.