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More Than Money: Focus on Your Legacy With an Ethical Will

More Than Money: Focus on Your Legacy With an Ethical WillWhen most people sit down to write a will, they typically focus on how their material goods will be distributed after their death. While those instructions will provide an invaluable roadmap for those who will inherit, they stop short of addressing something you should be concerned about: your legacy.

You may find it surprising that a recent study conducted by Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., a gerontologist, psychologist and educator, found that almost 80% of parents and their adult children believe the most important issue concerning inheritance is parents sharing values and life lessons. That’s right; your heirs are more interested in learning about your legacy than who gets the silver.

How do you go about defining your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? What will your lasting influence be on both a business and personal level? The answer to the first question—creating an ethical will—will allow you to provide long-lasting value to your family, your business (if applicable) and even your community.

How do you get started? Here are a few questions to answer:

  • Who are the three people who are most important to you and why?
  • What are your top five values?
  • What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?
  • What are three words you’d like to have said about you?
  • What worries you most about the future for yourself and the next generation?
  • What do you want your children and future generations to know about you, in particular your values, lessons learned, and life experiences?

Once you’ve answered these questions, and reflected on what you’d like your legacy to be, you can move on to the actual process of writing your ethical will. It won’t be a legal document, but it can provide your heirs with information such as:

  • What you want them to know about you
  • How you became who you are
  • What your life’s main influences were

If you own a business, you’ll want to create a business/leadership transition document in which you can:

  • Share a historical perspective of the business and industry
  • Identify critical issues in the business that need to be addressed
  • Share your vision of the future for the business and industry
  • Outline specific business expectations for the future

By thinking about your legacy—making an in-depth assessment of who you are and passing it along—you’ll be providing your heirs with a treasured gift that will resonate long after you’re gone. It’s a gift so powerful that you can’t place a specific monetary value on it—but it’s surely worth its weight in gold.

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