When local residents consider creating a New York estate plan they are likely thinking about establishing a trust, drafting a Power of Attorney, and making similar preparations. Taking stock of assets, deciding how to distribute them, creating plans to do so legally, and saving on taxes is the cornerstone of most of these plans. Our New York estate planning attorneys have been helping families do just that for years. But we also help with much more.
For one thing, we have aided in the creation of “ethical wills” as a way to pass on intangible assets. Individuals accumulate much more than bank account funds, real estate, stocks, bonds, or personal property over the course of their lives. In many ways it is “moral assets”–lessons, experiences, and wisdom–which are much more important to pass on to children and grandchild. That is why our New York elder law estate planning lawyers often help families create ethical wills to share these assets, occasionally passing them on while one is still alive. Not only can these wills prove invaluable to family members, but creating them is often a fulfilling exercise for the author. It allows one to learn about themselves, reflect on their life, and affirm their convictions. In many ways it is a spiritual task that provides a sense of completion in addition to helping loved ones “let go” when the time arrives.
A story from the Family Wealth Planning Institute on the same topic talked about things that one should consider when drafting an ethical will. A few of the highlights include:
1. Values: What principles do you hold dear and wish to emphasis to those left behind? How do you balance money and health? In your lifetime, what accomplishments do you hold the most dear and why?
2. Personality: What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of your children? What do you wish for each of them? Were there lessons that they taught you?
3. Community: Do you take pride in a connection to the community? How do you interact with those around you? Are there community traditions that you’d like your children to carry on?
4. Spirituality: Are there any religious or spiritual traditions that are particularly important to you? Are there any tenets which you’d like to see preserved?
5. Legacy: Do your children and grandchildren know about their family history? Are there family stories that you want to take the time to share? What do you want your family to remember most about your time together?
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