Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ethical Wills - Will It or Won’t It?

An Ethical Will is like a love letter to your family. You may already have a Last Will and a Living Will, so why on earth do you need an Ethical Will?

There are two excellent reasons for creating an Ethical Will: 1) it makes a priceless keepsake for your loved ones and 2) it is an excellent opportunity for you to consider the life you have led and have yet to lead.

A Last Will addresses your assets and how you want them to be distributed to your family, friends, or favorite charities. If you don’t happen to have a will at your death, the state where you reside will determine who inherits your worldly goods. I can’t speak for others, but I have no desire to let the government dole out my hard-earned money and property.

TIP: If you don’t have a Last Will, it’s not too late to create one. See an attorney at your earliest convenience.

A Living Will contains your health care directives. If you cannot make the decisions for your own care, such as after an accident, a heart attack, or a stroke, this document explains who can make those decisions for you. No one likes to think about becoming incapacitated, but worse yet would be for others to not know your wishes about using extraordinary measures to keep you alive.

TIP: If you don’t have a Living Will, it’s time to create one. See an attorney at your earliest convenience. An alternative: use the standard forms available at many hospitals and health care providers. In fact, it has become common practice for hospitals to encourage patients to create a Living Will before operations or certain procedures. Good advice!

An Ethical Will enables you to share personal information with your loved ones. It includes some of your history, such as where your ancestors came from, how they ended up in this city or even this country, what you remember best about them, and what you want future generations to understand about their heritage.

Your present-day history can also be an important part of your Ethical Will. Where did you come from, where have you been, and where do you intend to go from here? All these questions help you consider what has led to the development of you as a person. This is such a great opportunity to share that information with your loved ones.

Ethical Wills also contain information about the life lessons you have learned, your growth from any losses or failures, and your accomplishments. By describing your life in these terms, your heirs can benefit from the precious advice you can bequeath to them.

My favorite part of an Ethical Will happens to be the personal values and beliefs that we each have. Looking at them in depth allows you to figure out not only who you are, but who you want to become. That discovery is significant for both you and your loved ones.

The last portion of an Ethical Will contains your hopes and dreams for yourself, your family and friends, and even for the world at large. When you examine those hopes, you can extend your universe beyond yourself to benefit others. For example, you may rediscover an early ambition as a young adult to save the world; now is the time to examine ways to continue that dream, perhaps by charitable works or contributions to worthwhile causes.

However you create your own Ethical Will, be assured that your family, friends, and other loved ones will appreciate your sharing your life with them. Having such a personal keepsake from you is a priceless gift.

When are you going to start your own Ethical Will? It’s never too late, you know!

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