While the reasons for drafting an ethical will may seem more personal than business-related, an ethical will can be an effective way for business owners to pass along their vision for the future of their company after they are gone.
A properly drafted last will and testament is critical to ensure your estate’s financial well-being. Perhaps equally important is your responsibility to manage your intellectual assets, including knowledge and ethical values. An ethical will, also known as a legacy letter, is a way for you to pass along information to family, friends, colleagues and even communities.
Ethical wills have been around for many centuries. They were very prevalent in Medieval Times, but lost much of their popularity in modern times. Over the past couple of decades, they have regained their popularity.
While a last will and testament details how a person’s possessions will be distributed after death, an ethical will is a way to pass on a person’s values, hopes, dreams and life lessons – among other viewpoints. Though an ethical will is not a legal document, it as an aid to estate planning.
What should I include in my ethical will?
- Your personal values – the importance of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.
- Your views on work ethic, dedication to one’s chosen profession and work-life balance.
- Your views on charitable giving and community responsibility.
- How to develop and cultivate personal and business relationships.
- Your hopes and dreams for your spouse, children and other family members.
- Anything that you have learned in life and would like to pass on to others.
When should I draft my ethical will?
- Birth of a child
- Children leaving for college
- When drafting a succession plan for your business
- End of life
- Or anytime
An ethical will can be an integral part of your overall estate plan, so consider putting one together today!
By Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)