However, the terms of these essential elements can be adjusted to safeguard an individual testator’s faith. Before committing to any decision, you should ask yourself, and your estate planning attorney, these questions:

  • Does your religion require that you privilege certain relatives, charities, or causes in the distribution of your assets?
  • What treatment, if any, should you receive if you are ever medically incapacitated and unlikely to recover?
  • Do you wish to donate your organs when you pass away?
  • How should your funeral be conducted, and what should your loved ones do with your remains?

Since California affords most adults the right to make informed decisions about their health, wealth, and estate, you could adjust your estate plan to accommodate beliefs that might not be explicitly supported in the Golden State’s Probate Code.

How an Estate Plan Could Help Preserve Your Values

Estate planning provides the opportunity to ensure that your values are honored when you are no longer in a position to make decisions for yourself. You could, for example, include individualized instructions in the following estate planning tools:


A last will and testament is a fundamental estate planning document that allows its creator, or testator, to designate a guardian for their minor children, nominate an executor for their estate, and determine how their assets should be distributed upon their death. If your religion requires that certain relations be privileged in inheritances, your will could include an additional letter of instruction explaining the logic underlying your decisions.


A revocable living trust is a legal entity that can acquire, receive, and manage assets. Since the trust’s grantor may adjust the term’s conditions so long as they are alive, the trust can be conditioned to ensure that heirs only receive inheritances if they meet certain moral standards.

Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive is a legal document that informs your physician of the treatments you should and should not receive if you are ever medically incapacitated. Your advance health care can be altered to include or preclude certain options, ensuring that you only receive life support that does not violate the tenets of your faith.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.