Faith Based Estate Planning in Oregon

Everyone that creates an estate plan wants it to be consistent with their beliefs whether they are religious or secular.  In Oregon, any estate plan is enforceable so long as it complies with the requirements of Oregon law.   The typical issues that of faith based estate planning are specialized inheritance rules and medical treatments.   Some people may also wish to set money aside for faith based education and travel.

Faith Based Inheritance

If you pass away without a Will or and estate plan, your belongings will be distributed according to Oregon law.  This "default plan" is called intestate succession and I have diagrammed common scenarios for inheriting property without a will in Oregon.   These are the rules created by the Oregon Legislature and many faiths require a different distribution of property than that of the Oregon law.

For example, Surah An-Nisaa 4:11 says:

Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are [only] daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one's estate. And if there is only one, for her is half. And for one's parents, to each one of them is a sixth of his estate if he left children. But if he had no children and the parents [alone] inherit from him, then for his mother is one third. And if he had brothers [or sisters], for his mother is a sixth, after any bequest he [may have] made or debt. Your parents or your children - you know not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. [These shares are] an obligation [imposed] by Allah . Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.

In order to achieve a Shariah compliant estate plan, the distribution must be written into the will or trust documents.  Many other faiths and traditions differ from the laws of intestate succession so don't assume that your wishes will be followed if you don't prepare a will.

End of Life Decision Making and Medical Care

The end of one's life is an ethically and morally fraught time for most people.  Whether or not to use life sustaining treatment or to opt for treatment that may affect the unborn are concerns you may have when faced with a medical issue.  Advanced Medical Directives  allow you to specify what treatments you wish in these situations.

Using an advanced medical directive allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated.  You can also state whether or not you want to be connected to a ventilator or be provided other life sustaining treatments.   Another tool used is the Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).  You will need to complete your POLST with a physician and they will place it with your medical documentation.

Other common concerns are whether to donate organs or if you would like a spiritual leader to visit you in hospital.  You may also want to provide instructions for burial or cremation.

Religiously based Incentive Trusts

These are trusts with strings attached to them.  The religious education of your grandchildren may be important to you and you would like to set money aside for religious schooling.  You may also want to place money in a trust to provide travel costs for the Hajj or religious pilgrimages to the Holy Lands when children or grandchildren marry or reach a certain age.  Special care should taken when drafting incentives because the future is unknown and unforeseen consequences are common.   Terms that are too harsh may cause resentment among your heirs and lead to the opposite of what you intended.

Work with and Educate your Estate Planning Attorney

Often times the attorney drafting your estate plan will not understand the religious requirements of your faith.  If that is case you may want them to contact your faith leader to discuss the requirements.  Of course you do not have to follow the guidance of any faith leader and are free to draft your last wishes however you want.

As with all estate planning, it is important that they understand your wishes when creating your documents so be sure to clearly communicate with your attorney and thoroughly review any document before signing it.

Portland Probate Attorney
(503) 893-5878