Estate planning encompasses far more than inheritances and trusts. While a comprehensive estate plan should include provisions to protect your legacy, it can also accommodate its creator’s religious needs and spiritual beliefs. Faith beliefs in estate planning | CA Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate Planning and Religious Beliefs

California is among the most diverse states in the country. From San Diego to Crescent City, Golden State residents come from a wealth of backgrounds. Since different cultures and different religions often connote vastly different values, many individuals creating or revising their estate plans seek solutions that accommodate their values, beliefs, and faith.

While it may not be immediately apparent or obvious, estate planning and religion can intersect in many ways. For example, many religions require that funerals include certain rights, or that the decedent’s remains be disposed of in a particular manner. Additionally, if you are ever incapacitated and unable to make financial or medical decisions, the right estate plan could help you dictate the terms of your treatment, too.

Preparing an Estate Plan That Safeguards Your Faith

Every estate plan should ideally include essential elements such as a last will and testament, a revocable living trust, an advance health care directive, durable powers of attorney, and regularly revised beneficiary designations.

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.

Do You Need to Speak With an Estate Planning Attorney?

If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.


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