Wednesday, November 14, 2012
For some people, estate planning is not only about passing their wealth to their family members but also about passing their values and religious beliefs. This could create potential problems between people within the family, especially if the members of the family have differing degrees of devotions. Thus, estate planners might want to address these issues before they become disputes. However, some estate planners have argued that an attorney might not want to make the estate planning documents so strict as to do what the attorney tried to prevent. Many provisions, such as conditional provisions that restrict marriage, could cause conflicts and legal battles between family members. Alternatively, a client might want to leave his or her money to a trust and have the trustee follow a set of stricter guidelines placed on making distributions. Unfortunately, this requires the careful selection of the trustee.
That is why these estate planning lawyers claim that the better method of leaving a person's values behind is "to leave a spiritual legacy." This is only a suggestion as courts have frequently upheld conditional clauses that were based upon religion. Still, it is an important consideration because a conditional clause can unintentionally cause legal battles between family members. That is why some lawyers claim that the only true way to ensure that a client's potential heirs embody his or her religious and political beliefs is through education. A client might want to talk with his or her family about the faith and his or her personal set of moral values. There are many other ways a client can do this. For example, they can include letters and videotapes that outline their values.
See Rachel Emma Silverman, Can You Make Your Heirs Honor Your Beliefs?, The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, Nov. 13, 2012.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) and Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.