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Estate planning may include faith-based language

When considering creating an estate plan, many in Texas and elsewhere work hard to ensure that the assets they own at the time of their deaths go to the heirs and beneficiaries of their choice. Using estate planning documents and tools, people can detail their wishes for those who survive them. In some cases, those wishes may also include religious values.

Estate planning experts note that an increasing number of people are including religious stipulations in their estate planning documents. In one recent case, a man left his estate to his grandchildren, but they could only collect it if they married within their faith. When some did not, the grandchildren did not receive their inheritances. After the man died, litigation ensued to determine the validity of the clause regarding religion. A court held that the clause was valid, and other courts have approved similar language so long as it was not seen as encouraging divorce.

Estate planning authorities suggest that if a person is interested in restricting beneficiaries' inheritances based on religion, it may be wise to use an estate planning tool such as a trust. With a trust, the Texas person planning an estate can direct a trustee to distribute assets according to their wishes. However, clauses can be placed in the trust that allow the trustee some freedom to distribute assets in situations that may not have been considered by the decedent. This flexibility may limit the familial battles that can occur after the death of an individual.

There are many tools that can be used to create an estate plan. Ultimately, being comprehensive and detailed is extremely important if you hope to have your wishes followed precisely after your death.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Joining Church and Estate," Rachel Emma Silverman, April 30, 2012

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