The Blatt Watch by Peter Blatt: Ethical Wills – Preserve Your Legacy of Values

From the desk of Peter Blatt

October 31, 2012

A Way of Passing on Good Character To Your Children and Grandchildren

A few weeks ago a client of mine passed away. He had decided to specifically include his grandchildren (ages 18 and 20) as beneficiaries of his Revocable Trust.  He left them each $100,000. His grandchildren were surprised and shocked to receive any inheritance. Both of their parents are still alive and they received the remaining inheritance.

The grandchildren knew exactly what to do with the ‘checks’ and decided to use them for down payments to purchase their first homes. The grandchildren could have used the money to buy expensive cars or electronics, but they knew their grandfather’s values. There were no legal restrictions on the funds—only moral restrictions.

How do you pass along your values to the next generation? Answer: Create an Ethical Will.

Over 2000 years ago, the first ethical will was drafted. An ethical will is a non-legal document that states why you are leaving money to your children, grandchildren or other relatives.  It is designed to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. In recent years, the practice has been more widely used by the general public. The American Bar Association describes it as an aid to estate planning.

The generic purpose of the ethical will is to pass on wisdom to future generations. The writing can include family history and cultural and spiritual values; blessings and expressions of love for, pride in, hopes and dreams for children and grandchildren; life-lessons and wisdom of life experience; requests for forgiveness for regretted actions; the rationale for philanthropic and personal financial decisions; stories about the meaningful “stuff” for heirs to receive; and requests for ways to be remembered after death.

A Guide to Writing Your Own Ethical Will

Today, ethical wills are being written by people at turning points and transitions in their lives and when facing challenging life situations.  They are usually shared with family while the writer is still alive.  Ethical wills are one of the most cherished and meaningful gifts you can leave your family.

There is not just one way in which to write an ethical will. You are free to write yours in whatever style or tone you’d like. But as every writer knows, the hardest thing to do is to get started.  To that end, we have written a guide to writing your own ethical will, in a simple, easy to follow 5 step process.


Until next time,

Peter Blatt

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