The Atlanta Lawyer May 2018 - Page 21

An ethical will is not a legal docu- ment. It carries no binding instruc- tions. It does not transfer material wealth, only spiritual wealth to those who receive it. For many, the bequest of an ethical will can be more valuable that money or property that is passed from one generation to the next. Ethical wills are not a modern-day phe- nomenon. They have been in place since biblical times. They were used, as they are still used today, to pass stories and values from one generation to the next. Such ethical wills, which historically were passed down through oral story-telling, exist now as writings or other tangible gifts from one family member to another. Everyone has a story to tell. May- be it’s a story about our parents. Maybe it’s a story about how we grew up or what happened to us as adults. Maybe it’s a story about a case we tried or a client we helped. Whatever the stories are, they are the experiences of our lives. Whether good or bad, there is wisdom to impart and lessons to learn from those experiences. Certainly, none of us go through our lives without challenges and difficulties. Our discussion of those events may provide the emotional support needed when our children face their own life predicaments. Our stories of adversity and resil- iency in our own lives may pro- vide important and helpful lessons for others in the future. Another reason why you would create an ethical will is because of the joy that i s felt by the recipients of your ethical will. The appreciation that someone feels when they are given something tangible from a loved one. Something that the person created themselves. So how can you create an ethical will? Wonderfully, there is no right answer to this question. Ethical wills can be done by audio record- ing, video recording, by writing a letter, by writing poetry, by writing to children can be more priceless than any financial inheritance. The easiest way to begin writing is to prepare an outline of topics and then write about those items that you select. Your topics may include your thoughts about dif- ferent values, beliefs, hopes and maybe even your dreams. In that many people view ethical wills as writing a love letter to your family, “Whoever it may be for, an ethical will is seen as a gift of love to those who receive it.” a song or by painting a painting. There is no one way to express yourself for those who follow you. If you choose to write an ethical will, the beauty of creating an ethi- cal will is that there is no required format. No word minimums or maximums. There is only the need for you to have true intent in your writing. To be authentic and to be positive. Think about the stories you want to tell. The ones that are at risk of losing if you don’t write them down to share. Think about the lessons and wisdom that you want to pass along to your children and loved ones so that hopefully they will avoid some of the same mistakes. And most importantly, share your message of love. The feelings that you have but often do not share. The feelings that you want to express and somehow have trouble communicating. Clearly, these writings passed from parents you should feel comfortable shar- ing your experiences in life, the lessons learned and possibly your messages of forgiveness, maybe even of regrets. After you create your list of topics to discuss or messages to share, you can then begin to fill in the words to tell your story. Eventually you will find that you have writ- ten on the topics that you have chosen. When you’re ready, it may be appropriate for you to add an introduction, an explanation of why you wrote what you wrote and maybe a conclusion where you can add some final thoughts. The key to writing your ethical will is simply to start. And it is never too early to begin. This is your chance before it’s too late. ▪ The Official News Publication of the Atlanta Bar Association THE ATLANTA LAWYER 21