We found an interesting story in The New York Times about a new trend in Estate Planning that’s taken an ancient tradition and given it a high-tech makeover.
For centuries, families have used “Ethical Wills” to pass on values and lessons like the importance of giving to charity. Ethical Wills were an oral tradition until around the 11th century when Jewish families began to write them down and archive them.
Today, Ethical Wills are once again being viewed as important legacy-builders because they convey a person’s values and pass on heartfelt wisdom to future generations.
Some legal advisers are even adding them to their Estate Planning toolbox to deliver personal messages.
Brian Luster of the Abernathy Group II believes an Ethical Will can help avoid family conflict. Luster uses Video Wills to communicate a client’s core values. “Families who watch the videos get to hear stories directly,” he said. “So you get to put a face to the name.” Each of his videos cover a value that’s important to the patriarch or matriarch. The video are then edited and archived.
Susan Turnbull, founder of Personal Legacy Advisors embraced Ethical Wills as an alternative to the legalese of Wills and Trusts. “An Ethical Will says who I am. It’s what you want your loved ones to understand.”
But it’s not just Estate Planners who are adopting the ancient practice. More and more people are creating their own Ethical Wills, DVDs, digital scrapbooks, videos and Facebook pages to put a human face and voice to their final legacy.
There is even an iPhone app for creating Ethical Wills.
April Bell, who owns a video storytelling business, co-developed the Ethical Will app called StoryCatcher. “When you capture someone on film, you get the essence of who they are,” said Bell.
“Technology lets you include video clips, sound bites and even music in Ethical Wills,” said Scott Friedman of the law firm Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman. Friedman believes videos are more effective than written Wills. “Being appropriately emotional in a video adds more dimensions than just words on paper,” he said.
The most unusual Ethical Wills these days can be seen online like Randy Pausch’s Ethical Will, which was published as the book “The Last Lecture.” In it he talks about the importance of seizing the moment in life. Pausch, an author and professor who died at age 47 of cancer, still has a Facebook page and his last lecture is still on YouTube.
To get started on your own Ethical Will, Turnbull encourages her clients to begin by using their smartphones to create audio files of their thoughts. “If I have a thought, I can pull out my phone and talk into it to start the process,” said Turnbull. “There’s no perfect time.”
Barry Baines, author of “Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper” believes Ethical Wills can deepen our own lives. “Today, we don’t take time to self-reflect,” he said. “But putting together an Ethical Will early on helps you live life with more intention.” That way, life can be richer, he said. “We’re built for story and narrative.”
Read the story here.