“For many, passing along religious beliefs and values to the next generation is just as important as passing along financial wealth and tangible assets,” South Carolina attorney Bobby Sawyer wisely observes. We agree. In fact, our attorneys at Geyer Law find our clients’ values are woven into the very fabric of each of their estate planning decisions.
In values-based estate planning, the focus is on values rather than on assets. “Think about it,” says Utah attorney Lawrence Brock of St. George Estate Planning. “There’s probably so much that your children, grandchildren, or other loved ones don’t know about you and your life…This is your legacy and it needs to be shared.”
For many parents, adds a writer from the Colorado Law Firm The Rains, their primary goal is not to pass down their wealth, but to continue to teach their ethics, morals, worldview, and even religious beliefs to their children.
Specific religious beliefs may be expressed through funeral and burial arrangements, including a choice for burial vs. cremation, as well as the preferred type and place for a funeral service. The choice to be an organ donor may be driven by religious beliefs. Choices of recipients of charitable giving in an estate plan may be dictated by religious beliefs or simply by one’s wishes to favor a particular cause or initiative.
Values come into play through advance directives describing how you want care to be handled in your final days. Do you want to be kept alive on a ventilator or feeding tube when all else has failed? Whatever your choice, estate planning avoids burdening your survivors with having to make those difficult decisions.
Values-based estate planning involves philanthropy. As philanthropic leadership consultant Arlene Cogen says, good questions to consider include:
- “What do I want to be remembered for?”
- “How do I define success?”
- “What is something meaningful that happened to me that was made possible by the money I have?”
At Geyer law, we agree that the motivating factors for philanthropy will be the drivers of the actual choices made in the estate plan.
What about making an imprint on the next generation? While it is not possible to force your faith or your morals on others, estate planning offers the chance to incentivize other’s choices. Through a trust, a gift can have ‘strings” attached. The trustee is authorized to release funds only if the beneficiary follows a certain path (going to college, marrying with the faith or sending one’s children to a religious school, for example). There’s a big “think again” here, however, cautions Nolo.com. “Talk to family members and consider whether you might accomplish your aims in a way that stirs up less rancor.”
In values-based estate planning, we att Geyer Law know the documents are merely tangible manifestations of a lot of deep thought and expressions of love.
– By Rebecca W. Geyer