In a multi-cultural, multi-religious country such as ours the subject of personal faith or religious beliefs is one that many advisors are reluctant to bring up. Some advisors are afraid of offending their clients, other advisors may simply feel that religion has no bearing on the financial service they provide; but a recent article in the Wall Street Journal questions this assumption and asks is there a circumstance under which business and religion should mix?
The WSJ article takes the view that yes, there are circumstances when religious beliefs do have a bearing on financial matters. For example, “Making sure a client’s living will and health-care proxy are in line with his or her religious beliefs—or lack of belief—should be a priority for advisers.” Additionally, creating a “‘family values and mission statement,’ which typically includes a section about the family’s ‘spiritual values’… [can help a client] gain clarity about their family’s priorities.”
When it comes to estate planning, religious beliefs and values are often a very large part of the planning process. Parents and grandparents hope that they can leave a moral and financial legacy, and how you choose to do this will have a significant effect on your estate plan. In order to serve their client to the fullest an estate planning attorney has to know which questions to ask and how to listen with an open mind in order to ascertain the complete scope of a client’s goals and help our client achieve those goals.
Including religious beliefs in an estate plan won’t be a priority for everyone. But for those who do wish to address the subject, they may find it’s not so easy to jump right into the topic with a relative stranger. The most natural place to start is often with a healthcare directive or living will, where you will want to include your end-of-life wishes and memorial instructions. Discussing values in this context can often lead to a greater discussion of how to pass your values on to your heirs through your will or trust as well.