We've been focusing a lot on planned giving and wills in the last month, but beyond the legal documents, there is another document you might consider completing as part of your estate plan. An ethical will is a document created for your loved ones to share your values, beliefs, spirituality, favorite memories and hopes and dreams for the future. An ethical will helps you tell others about yourself and leave them a gift more valuable than money. Ethical wills are actually part of the Jewish faith tradition. Jacob, Moses and David all had instructions and/or life-learnings for their descendants, as illustrated in the Jewish Tanakh and Christian Old Testament.
People who think they are not writers might be intimidated by creating an ethical will. However, it can be done over time and doesn’t have to be complicated. If you are not a computer user, you can handwrite a note or a series of notes. You can also write in a journal or notebook or record your thoughts by voice or video recorder. Keep your ethical will with your estate plan documents and know that your loved ones will be pleased to read or listen to it.
These questions will help you think about what you might tell people about yourself. Think through your responses and, if needed, ask yourself why to make answers more complete.
• What was your childhood like?
• What were you like in school?
• What were the best years of your life?
• What world event had the most impact on you?
• How did you decide on your profession or career? Do you think it was your calling?
• What was the most difficult decision you ever made?
• What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
• Did you love your spouse (or partner) at first sight? When did you know it was love?
• What is key to a lasting marriage?
• What is key to a lasting friendship?
• Who is your best friend?
• What is your best advice for parents?
• What was the most rewarding aspect of being a parent?
• What do you believe in?
• Do you believe in God?
• What do you think heaven is like?
• What are you most proud of?
• What are your most closely regarded values?
• Is anything in the world worth dying for?
• What would your descendants be surprised to know about you?
• How do you want to be remembered?