Most of us think of planning for our loved ones to be strictly a property arrangement. We are concerned, as we should be, with passing on the assets we have spent a lifetime building up to those family and friends closest to us.
But sometimes we want to pass on more than tangible property. Sometimes we want to pass on our thoughts, advice, and life lessons to those we leave behind.
An ethical will, also known as a legacy statement, is a way for you to express your core set of values and beliefs to your loved ones. It is a great way to reinforce to those people dearest to you what you would like for them to remember most about you. Ethical wills have a long history, dating back to ancient times, and have regained increasing popularity in recent years.
Your religious convictions, important lessons you learned in your lifetime, special memories, a motto to live by--each of these can be contained in an ethical will.
Ethical wills, in short, are an effective way for you to explain and sum up your life for your children and grandchildren.
It is really up to you to choose the contents of your ethical will and the people you want to address it to. You can address an ethical will broadly to "family and friends" or you can mention specific people in your ethical will--for example, your grandchildren, or your closest friend. Many people like to include grandchildren in their ethical will because often grandchildren do not know much about their grandparents' lives.
Ethical wills are a way to reinforce a clear sense of your collective family history, as well as your individual experiences and philosophy.
It is important to remember that ethical wills are not legally binding. For example, if you tell your grandchildren in your ethical will to keep in mind that education is important and that they should stay in school, the ethical will does not create a contractual obligation for them to complete college. Despite their lack of legal standing, however, people find that writing an ethical will is an emotional comfort both to them and to their survivors.
This distinguishes an ethical will from a Last Will and Testament.
Keep in mind that an ethical will should focus on imparting final advice and creating a lasting memory. It should not be used to chastise your friends and family or to "have the last word" in a disagreement.
You should also try to write an ethical will in your own voice. You shouldn’t want your ethical will to sound like a straightforward, cold legal document (since it isn't one). You should want it to sound like a sincere, descriptive, uniquely personal farewell to your loved ones.
The document you create can be typed or handwritten. Keep it with your other estate planning documents rather than buried in a drawer so that you know it will be read and cherished by your family and friends at the appropriate time.
If you live in Michigan and need experienced estate planning help, contact Michael Einheuser for a free consultation. Michael helps families in Bingham Farms, Troy, Farmington Hills, Rochester Hills, Southfield, West Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Township, and the surrounding Michigan areas.
Schedule your Free Consultation today: (248) 398-4665.Return from the Ethical Will article to the Home page by clicking here.