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Separation of Church And Estate

For many people, estate planning isn't just about financial assets and other practical concerns. It's also about honoring their religious beliefs and passing those values on to family members. That can be very tricky ground.

Planning your estate may seem like a simple matter of deciding who gets your stuff when you’re gone. What if you are a person of great faith and religious conviction? How does a person of faith plan for his or her estate when life (and especially life beyond) is so much more than mere “stuff”?

The problem of mixing religion and estate planning – that is, the problem of doing it well – is a issue taken up by the Wall Street Journal in an article titled Joining Church and Estate.

If your decisions during life are guided by your faith, then likely your estate decisions will be too. For example, end-of-life, disposition of remains and even charitable giving decisions are oftentimes determined by ones religious beliefs. These are personal decisions that directly impact you and collaterally impact others.

However, an entirely different matter, and one that can be the source of much trouble, are the religiously motivated decisions you may make in regards to others.

Given the numerous alternative planning strategies and tools available to plan your estate, it is possible to make (or attempt to make) religious decisions for your heirs. This is where problems can arise.

In the extreme, you can move beyond encouraging to requiring the observance of certain religious principles, rituals, or lifelong membership in the given religion to secure any inheritance. As the Wall Street Journal article illustrates, this is where problems can arise. In short, requiring heirs to uphold religious principles they do not share can work to undermine them.

The article discusses some particularly poignant examples, and real life court battles, but as a general principle it may be worth avoiding this type of planning.

You can learn more about estate planning and elder law issues on our website. Be sure to sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter to stay abreast of issues like these that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (April 30, 2012) “Joining Church and Estate

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We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
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Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Coronavirus/Covid-19
Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.