For people who practice a religious faith, the teachings of their religion may have a substantial impact upon the way they approach estate planning. Whether one is Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or a follower of another faith, the deeply ingrained teachings and values of religion may inspire followers to give a portion of their estates to religious causes. In order to ensure that these and other religiously inspired estate planning goals are met, you need to put into place a detailed and carefully crafted estate plan, which will allow you to take control and ensure that your personal preferences and religious obligations are all satisfied.
One example where religious rules closely impact estate planning is the Islam faith or, more specifically, the observance of Islamic Sharia law. These rules are derived from to several sources. These sources, which include both holy scripture and certain additional rules, contain specific teaching on how one plans one's estate. For example, Sharia inheritance rules dictate what fraction of the estate a surviving spouse should get, as well as the portions that should go to surviving sons and surviving daughters.
For a person in the United States who is faithfully observant of Sharia law, then, it is important to have an estate plan, because Sharia's rules are distinctly different from the intestacy laws in this country. For example, Sharia law gives a surviving spouse one-eighth of her dead husband's estate and says that each surviving son should receive a portion equal to double the portion taken by each surviving daughter. No state's intestacy laws match this distribution scheme so, by failing to create an estate plan, one's estate would be doomed to be distributed in a way that is non-compliant with these religious rules.
Other religions with larger numbers of American adherents - like Christianity - generally do not have such specific inheritance rules. Nevertheless, these faiths (and the rules they establish for their followers) may still have a strong impact on their followers' estate planning goals and objectives. Some Christian denominations teach the importance of tithing. Some teach that tithing is the giving of one-tenth of one's paycheck to the church. Others believe that the practice of tithing extends to all of one's wealth, including one's estate. Whether you want to give a portion of your estate as a tithe or you desire to include your church or other religious ministries in your estate out of a more general spiritual calling to give, if you want to make a religious donation in your estate, it takes an estate plan to make this happen. The intestacy laws of any state will look to find your closest living relative, and distribute all of your assets to this person/people. Your carefully constructed will or revocable living trust can allow you to make certain that your religious giving goals are met in the way you want them to be.
Another place where you can ensure that your estate planning mirrors your values is through your end-of-life planning. Many religions' teachings in relation to the sanctity of human life impact the way their followers approach end-of-life planning. A faithful adherent may desire to have an end-of-life in plan that makes it clear when (if ever) life-extending care may be withdrawn or declined. This type of planning, which is usually spelled out in a living will/advance directive or a healthcare power of attorney, can give the creator of that estate plan the peace of mind of knowing that, not only will their objectives be honored and followed, their religious faith's requirements will be, too.