When thinking about one’s estate and the planning that goes along with it- many times we only think of the tangible assets. We consider the investment accounts, the home and the various other types of personal property that will be taxed, sheltered or ultimately distributed to our heirs. What’s not typically considered though are the memories, values and life lessons that we may want to share with our loved ones either now or posthumously.
There are so many unique experiences that shape who we are as individuals, yet many people don’t ask themselves who will share the life lessons they’ve been taught or how to carry on the values they’ve held after they’re gone. This is where an ethical will can help. An ethical will can act as a supplement to your various other estate planning documents and is a way to express and communicate your beliefs, values, life lessons and hopes to friends, family and future generations. By documenting these things, you’re able to leave behind a piece of yourself and your legacy to share with others.
Think of an ethical will as a letter or memoir of sorts for your family and loved ones. Your ethical will is a document unique to your specific situation. It can be shaped around your past and who or what was influential in your life, or your values and where you find motivation and satisfaction. It can be a place where you explore practical advice you want to share with your loved ones – perhaps on enjoying life, managing money or even facing unexpected difficulties. Your ethical will can address your children or heirs individually or as a whole. It can express the difference they have made in your life, what you love and admire most about them, and/or what you hope for them in the future.
You may consider yourself too young to create or need an ethical will, but whether you’re single, a new parent, recently divorced, an empty-nester or a retiree, there will never be a point when it won’t help to understand and clarify your values. Not only can writing an ethical will help to shape your vision for your life, but it can help to answer the question of how you want to be remembered. Also keep in mind that no matter what stage you’re at in life, it can only be beneficial to share with others the lessons you’ve been taught and the love and compassion you feel towards them. By creating an ethical will you can ensure there isn’t anything you’ve left unsaid to your loved ones. It may even be the greatest gift you leave behind.
Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP®, CDFA
Senior Financial Planner
San Diego, CA