ETHICAL WILLS: GIVING YOUR LOVED ONES AN EMOTIONAL GIFT

When you think of a will, you probably consider that it will distribute financial assets such as land holdings, jewelry and other valuable goods. That notion of estate planning is quickly being augmented by a new movement in will execution, which demonstrates that more Baby Boomers are interested in passing on a different kind of legacy to their heirs.

Those retirees are looking to hand down their life stories, passing down wisdom, accolades and other intangible assets to their progeny. These assets are considered complementary to traditional estate planning, according to modern financial experts.

People are choosing a variety of formats for the distribution of their personal legacy. Some choose to make videotapes or DVDs to capture the important moments of their lives. Audio tracks and photographs could also be included in a multimedia package. Sometimes these communiqués take the form of an ethical will, which reveals a heartfelt message to relatives. Those documents, sometimes called legacy letters, are designed to provide ethical guidance to heirs. Workbooks even exist to help estate planners craft the perfect letter.

Experts in the field say you can recruit professional assistance in completing your ethical will, or you could consider completing the process on your own. Some people choose to pen complete memoirs that are the length of books, which could include newspaper articles and other media. Those are even self-published in some instances, which provides a more polished presentation.

Many older people say they have positive experiences when drafting these emotional documents. One 80-year-old man who completed an ethical will and memoir said he learned more about himself because he reviewed his past. He also enjoyed the process of wandering back through his life experiences.

As the population of elderly Americans continues to grow, it is clear that the definition of an “estate” is likely to expand along with changing social norms and expectations. Experts say an increase in the number of ethical wills is likely on the way in the coming years.

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Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.