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Monday, June 12, 2006

Ethical Wills

What in the world is an Ethical Will? You've heard about wills, living wills, and even "Good Will Hunting". An ethical Will is a different animal altogether.

A theme that you'll see in this blog is that estate planning is really about your family, the ones you love. It's not just about how much tax you can save, or how much more money you can pass along by planning. Most important is the impact of all of this on your little girl, or that person who has always been there for you.

In the March 2006 issue of Money Magazine, an article entitled "Leave a Legacy, Live Forever" discussed Ethical Wills.

The article states that more and more Americans are "making sure the money they leave behind does more than pad their progeny's bank accounts."

A traditional will tells the world what you want particular people to have. Billy gets your stock, Bobby gets your art, etc. An Ethical Will tells these people what you want them to know. It can be a personal history, stories, messages about what values you wish them to live by, or anything you wish it to be.

Rather than your grandchildren knowing they will be able to buy a car when they are 16 thanks to the money "PaPa" passed to them, they'll be able to take a spin in that car and read a handwritten note that you created 10 years earlier that tells the story of how you drove a Willy's Jeep in Europe during WWII, and how you hope they will always remember to be humble and thankful for their family, because it was the only thing that kept you going during those tough days. Maybe they'll even buy a Jeep in your honor, to remember you every time they turn the key.

An Ethical Will is something that should be used more than it is. I offer to assist my clients in creating their own, personalized Ethical Will. Why? Because your expression of who you are, what you lived for, and what you believed in will last far longer than the money you pass on - regardless of how many commas are in the figure. You can indeed live forever.
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