Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal (Sunday, November 23, 2014) and the New York Times (October 31, 2014) highlighted the use of Ethical Wills as a way of conveying your family’s history, culture and legacy to future generations. Estate planning attorneys spend a great deal of time working with clients on properly structuring their financial legacy based on the values, goals and traditions important to the clients. As part of or in addition to this process, many clients find it meaningful to share the family history, describe their personal experiences and life lessons, and ethical ideals and practices, perhaps including religious observances and other insights when sharing their wishes and priorities for future generations.
The New York Times article features the “high-technology makeover” for the 3,500 year old Ethical Wills. There now are professional consultants that will assist in preparing videos, DVDs, digital scrapbooks, and even Facebook pages to put together and add a human touch to an Ethical Will. As discussed in the articles, passing on values and traditions can assist families in passing on wealth and making sure the recipients will be good stewards. In planning the legacy, it is helpful for the client as well as the beneficiaries to take purposeful time to address personal and social issues. There are many resources available on this topic, and a local author, Barry K. Baines, M.D., has written a book entitled “Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper, 2nd Edition,” published by Perseus Publishing, along with several resources for writing Ethical Wills. If you would like references to additional resources, please contact us.