Per­fect for shar­ing your story, a sense of com­ple­tion


Per­fect for shar­ing your story, a sense of com­ple­tion

Al­though they have been around since early bib­li­cal times, eth­i­cal wills are gaining in pop­u­lar­ity, and there are plenty of re­sources avail­able to help with writ­ing, edit­ing, coach­ing and record­ing such im­por­tant mes­sages. Since an eth­i­cal will is not con­sid­ered to be a le­gal doc­u­ment, there is no for­mula that dic­tates the re­quired con­tent or for­mat―it is a deeply personal reflection and can take any form you choose. The idea of leav­ing your years of ex­pe­ri­ence and en­cour­age­ment to the gen­er­a­tions be­yond you makes gifts of money and pos­ses­sions only the be­gin­ning.

Put­ting it sim­ply, a validly ex­e­cuted will or trust agree­ment is de­signed to tell your heirs what you want them to have, while an eth­i­cal will is de­signed to tell your heirs what you want them to know about you in old-fash­ioned let­ter or con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­ogy. There’s plenty of prece­dence; Moses, for ex­am­ple, re­port­edly asked that his fol­low­ers com­plete the tasks he had started, as did Ja­cob with his 12 sons.

Com­pos­ing an eth­i­cal will is also cleans­ing, shar­ing pre­vi­ously un­told fam­ily his­tory, your personal values and spir­i­tual be­liefs, im­por­tant lessons learned in life, your hopes and dreams for the next gen­er­a­tions, ex­pres­sions of or re­quests for for­give­ness, and how you would like to be

re­mem­bered. You can de­cide to share your eth­i­cal will with your fam­ily, or leave it for a later date.

Many es­tate plan­ning at­tor­neys are now us­ing eth­i­cal wills, re­port­ing that the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing on an eth­i­cal will has been a uni­ver­sally pos­i­tive emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for their clients, pro­vid­ing an of­ten un­ex­pected clar­ity as well as a sense of “com­ple­tion,” par­tic­u­larly as a par­ent and grand­par­ent.

Com­pos­ing an eth­i­cal will takes courage and chal­lenges you to look in­ward to see the truths you have learned in a life­time and to mea­sure the things that mat­ter most. It is the ul­ti­mate way to live on in the hearts and minds of loved ones and re­in­forces that leav­ing a mean­ing­ful legacy can in­volve much more than just money.

LE­GAL, IN­VEST­MENT AND TAX NO­TICE: This in­for­ma­tion is not in­tended to be and should not be treated as le­gal advice, in­vest­ment advice or tax advice. Read­ers, in­clud­ing pro­fes­sion­als, should un­der no cir­cum­stances rely upon this in­for­ma­tion as a sub­sti­tute for their own re­search or for ob­tain­ing spe­cific le­gal or tax advice from their own coun­sel.

Steven V. Green­stein is Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent, Wealth Ser­vices, for The Sani­bel Cap­tiva Trust Com­pany, an in­de­pen­dent trust com­pany with $1.5 bil­lion in as­sets un­der man­age­ment that pro­vides fam­ily of­fice and wealth man­age­ment ser­vices.

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