The start of a new year is a time when most of us reflect on the year that has passed and our hopes for the year to come. This is a perfect time to think about adding an ethical will to your estate plan. Known also as a “legacy letter,” an ethical will is not a legal document, but an expression of your personal beliefs and lessons you would like to share with children and grandchildren. It could become the start of a family history, to be shared across many generations.
The Huffington Post’s recent article, “Want to Pass on Your Values as Well as Your Assets? Consider an Ethical Will,” says that you can think of an ethical will as an ancillary to a will: a will passes on the tangible, while the ethical will imparts the intangible.
This is a great time to review your estate planning. You may want to consider adding an ethical will. If you don’t have an estate plan, place this item at the top of your to-do list in the new year.
Preparing an ethical will can mean a lot of soul searching because you’re trying to describe your real values, as well as the most important lessons, thoughts, ideas, and experiences you want to pass on to your family. This can include things like how you’d hope your heirs use their inheritance and the traditions and values that you’d want your heirs to maintain.
These are all things that can be an important and invaluable component of your estate plan.
An ethical will isn’t legally binding, but it may be an incredibly meaningful point of reference for your loved ones as they go through their lives without you.
You should speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, even if your affairs are relatively simple. He or she can guide you through the practical steps and could act as a sounding board as you think about what you’d like to add to your ethical will.
There are several ways to create an ethical will: written, videos, musical collages, etc. Whatever your format, just make sure to tell several people that you have created such a message and where they will be able to find it. Consider that your insights and wisdom may be shared for many generations, and that it is possible that the legacy in your ethical will could outlast any material items in your estate.
Reference: Huffington Post (December 19, 2016) “Want to Pass on Your Values as Well as Your Assets? Consider an Ethical Will”