Churches can get into trouble if they get too involved in the process of procuring a gift or bequest. That’s especially true if they recommend that church members work with a specific lawyer or a financial planner with ties to the church. “There have been cases where the attorney who drafted the will was a member of the church that received the gift,” said attorney Mary Ellen Willman, a partner with Baltimore-based Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP. “That’s obviously not a good idea.”
Churches and pastors also should avoid having any involvement in drafting a will or a bequest for church members. Again, that includes recommending a specific lawyer or advisor for a church member to work with. “The church doesn’t want to even give the appearance of procuring the documents that leave the church money,” stressed Candie Deming, also an attorney with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston.
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