Tell Your Life Story with an Ethical Will
Across the United States, ethical wills are becoming a popular estate planning tool used to ensure legacies for generations to come.
Many Americans are beginning to realize there may be a gap in their estate plan. Sure, long-term care insurance, a living will, a regular will and other important estate documents are essential to a comprehensive plan. But how do you share your values, impart wisdom and make known your wishes for the financial legacy you leave behind?
An estate planning tool increasingly emphasized by religious leaders, estate planners and financial professionals is the ethical will. You sit down, talk about your experiences in life, your family history, relatives, interesting stories, lessons you’ve learned, and finally, what you’d like to see done with the assets you leave behind. Ethical wills are not legally binding documents, but they remind relatives what mattered most to you. Numerous books are available on the topic, which can help you formulate an idea of what you want to say and how you’ll say it.
More and more financial professionals are advising clients to prepare ethical wills during the estate planning process. An ethical will is seen as an all-encompassing moral vision to accompany the legal and financial documents you’ve prepared.
But it’s also about making sure generations to come can turn to you for advice and wisdom, even if they’ve never met you. As families grow, so do the stories and memories. Over time, those stories begin to fall through the cracks, long-lost relatives fade into history and an important heritage may be lost. An ethical will sheds light on the past. It keeps the stories and the memories alive. Most importantly, it leaves behind an example of the type of life you lived and what you want your loved ones to know.
Ethical wills are certainly not a new concept. The practice of creating them has existed for centuries. In fact, the Bible makes references to several cases of ethical wills being passed on in some form or another. But with more and more people expected to become retirees in the next few decades, ethical wills are quickly taking their place alongside legal and financial documents in the planning process.
The only question is: What are you going to say? It may be helpful to begin by recording your beliefs, hopes, dreams and life lessons over a few months and then use those notes to create a letter or a personal history. Once your formal draft is complete, feel free to share it with your family; there’s no need to wait. Then be sure to ask your financial professional to include it with your estate documents. Written by Securities America