(Not) Losing My Religion-Religious Faith and Your Estate Plan

We all have a guilty pleasure and mine is medical dramas. Think ER, House, and Grey’s Anatomy. Each episode centers around a dogged band of doctors and nurses racing against time to cure an inexplicably ill patient. Is it a rare disease or an improbable injury? Wait unto the last five minutes of the episode to find out.

The downside of my TV viewing habits? I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and a terrible patient. The upside? An episode of ER led to a really important estate planning conversation between my husband and myself.

No, seriously.

In February 2005, we watched an ER episode guest starring Cynthia Nixon as a soccer mom who finds herself completely aware of everything going on around her, but is unable to move or speak after suffering a stroke. At the time I was six months pregnant with my oldest and immediately thought holy crap, that could be me.

My husband was quick to point out that I had better chances of winning Powerball than suffering the fate of an ER patient.

Kidding aside, it did lead to us having an important discussion regarding end-of-life decisions, including how we wanted to incorporate our religious beliefs and values into the end-of-life care decision making process.

For many people, passing on your religious beliefs and values to your children is just as important as passing along financial wealth and tangible assets. For easy-to-follow ideas on how you can pass on your faith and values to your children, read “Passing Along Your Legacy to Your Children.”

There are other areas of estate planning that can reflect your religious beliefs and values.

End-of Life Care

Religious beliefs can impact health care decision-making, particularly at end-of-life.

There are two documents to consider here, a directive to physicians and a medical power of attorney.

In a directive to physicians, otherwise known as a living will, you can let your doctors and loved ones know what your wishes are regarding artificial life support in the event you have terminal or irreversible condition.

In a medical power of attorney, you can choose someone to make medical decisions for you in the event your are unable to do so. You should choose someone who cares deeply for you and is reasonably able to make decisions in accord with your known wishes and with your best medical and spiritual interests in mind.

You should also have in your estate planning documents written instructions regarding end-of-life issues, such as organ donation, pain medication (do you want to remain fully conscious or be fully sedated at end-of-life), and visitations by a member of clergy.

I am going to share with you a little bit of how my husband and I made some of these decisions. Please remember that I am neither your attorney or your priest, so if you need legal or spiritual advice in making these decisions, please consult with your attorney or priest (or minister, rabbi, etc.), as applicable.

My husband and I are “cradle Catholics” and spent our school years (including college) in Catholic school. Our living wills and medical powers of attorney are drafted (hopefully) to be consistent with authoritative Catholic teachings on end-of-life issues. For example, our documents include a presumption in favor of artificial nutrition and hydration unless it is of no benefit to the patient. We have also discussed who we would seek guidance from in the future if we were uncertain if a course of action is consistent with Catholic teachings (the monks at the local Cistercian Abbey).

Funeral and Burial Arrangements

Your religious beliefs and values may also impact your views on burial, cremation, and autopsy. They may also influence the type of service you want (or don’t want).

For example, my husband and I both participated in planning each of our respective father’s funeral. We keep copies of the readings and hymns selected for those services with our other estate planning documents because they are the ones we would like read or sung at our funeral services.

Have you and your spouse had the talk yet about end-of-life issues? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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