Growing up I learned the lessons that most boys learn from their fathers: how to throw and catch a ball, how to tie a tie, the birds and bees, etc. When he died I came to the realization that all he left behind were memories and stuff. His lifetime of experiences was gone forever. The mistakes he made and what he learned from them, what he would have done differently, what he did well, his values, his goals, his hopes for future generations, all lost forever. That wouldn't have been the case if he had drafted an Ethical Will.
An Ethical Will is not a legal document. Rather than talking about distributing your financial aspects, you talk about what kind of personal legacy you would like to leave for your children and other important people in your life, and what you would want to be remembered for.
Below is a list of questions to consider in designing an Ethical Will:
- How would you like to be remembered?
- What is your personal story?
- If you could do it all over again, would you make the same choices? Why or why not?
- What are your dreams, goals, successes, and failures?
- What are your hopes and dreams for future generations?
An Ethical Will could be a paragraph, it could be a bound volume, or it could be a video or audiotape.
Here is a suggestion of how you might organize your Ethical Will:
- Opening thoughts
- Values and beliefs
- Lessons and reflections about life
- Hopes for the future
- Concluding thoughts
While a normal will distributes your legacy of money and personal effects, an Ethical Will distributes your legacy of values, beliefs, knowledge, and wishes for the future. I urge you to consider adding an Ethical Will to your estate plan.