Estate planning is commonly associated with the distribution of tangible assets, be it property, money, or cherished family heirlooms. However, beyond these material belongings lies a legacy of arguably greater significance that often remains in the shadows: the ethical will. Not widely discussed but deeply profound, an ethical will captures the essence of one’s life experiences, values, and wisdom. We review the invaluable treasure of leaving behind a legacy encapsulated in lessons, principles, and heartfelt messages.
What is an Ethical Will?
At its core, an ethical will stands distinct from the traditional legal documents with estate planning, such as the last will and testament or living trust. It doesn’t distribute assets, nor is it enforceable by law. Yet, its intrinsic value is immense. An ethical will is a heartfelt, personal message, often penned or recorded, that serves as a bridge between generations. It captures the essence of one’s life journey, encapsulating cherished beliefs, deeply held values, pivotal experiences, and the wisdom gleaned over a lifetime. It’s a testament to what one holds dear and wishes to bequeath to the future, not in terms of material possessions, but in life lessons, guiding principles, and hopes for the generations that follow. It’s about leaving a legacy of intangible richness, ensuring that one’s voice and spirit resonate long after they’re gone.
The Historical Roots of Ethical Wills
Ethical wills have a rich history that spans various cultures and religious traditions. From biblical figures to historical scholars, many have left behind ethical wills as a way to preserve and pass on their moral and ethical legacy.
Why “More Precious Than Gold”?
Why refer to it as “more precious than gold”? Gold, as valuable as it is, represents a finite and material wealth, susceptible to market fluctuations, wear, and even theft. Over time, its allure might fade, or its value might diminish. Conversely, the contents of an ethical will — the hard-earned wisdom, the cherished memories, the lessons learned from both triumphs and trials, and the unconditional love and values you wish to bestow upon the next generation — these are treasures that can never be diminished, stolen, or devalued. They are evergreen, ever resonant, and ever relevant.
Moreover, while gold and other material assets often benefit just a few, the wisdom and values shared in an ethical will have the potential to shape the thoughts, actions, and lives of countless future generations. It’s a legacy of not just wealth, but wisdom; not just assets, but affection; and not just possessions, but principles. In that sense, the legacy of an ethical will, with its profound impact and timeless relevance, genuinely earns its place as something “more precious than gold.”
How to Create Your Ethical Will
Creating an ethical will can be as straightforward as writing a letter to your loved ones. There are no strict rules, but it’s important to be genuine and thoughtful. Consider including anecdotes or specific lessons that have shaped your life. Ethical wills can support your estate plan, however, remember that ethical wills are not legally enforceable.
Combining with Traditional Estate Planning
Traditional estate planning primarily focuses on the distribution of physical and financial assets, ensuring that your material possessions are passed on according to your wishes, in a manner that is legally recognized and enforceable. This involves legal instruments like last wills, trusts, power of attorney, and other related documents.
However, to ensure material wealth is adequately addressed, the emotional and moral aspects of one’s legacy are sometimes overshadowed. This is where ethical wills come into play. While they don’t possess the legal power of a last will or trust, their essence fills a gap that traditional estate planning tools often leave untouched.
Ethical wills complement the conventional estate planning process. They add depth, character, and a personal touch to the more formal, legal procedures. By including an ethical will, you are painting a comprehensive picture of your legacy – a blend of tangible assets and intangible values, beliefs, and desires for the future.
Importance of Professional Consultation
For comprehensive estate planning that includes both tangible and intangible legacies, consult a professional. Mark Fishbein and the team at ALTA Estate have the expertise to guide you through this important process. We look forward to helping you create a legacy that is truly “more precious than gold.”
Feel free to call the Estate Planning Attorneys in Tucson at (520) 797-1400 to learn more about proper and complete estate planning, including the Emergency Telephone Hotline Program afforded to you and your family members at no charge during times of crisis and the other benefits of estate planning described above. Mark Fishbein, Tucson, AZ. Follow Mark Fishbein Tucson Estate Planner on LinkedIn or Facebook.
The text above is for general informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. For more information, click Contact Us.