Monday, August 07, 2006

Where There’s a Will...

When working with life insurance clients, I usually (although not always, to my shame) ask if they have a valid, current will. Such an instrument is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to ensure that one’s final wishes are known, and (hopefully) carried out.
Wills generally cover the disposition of property, caring for any children, and charitable bequests. But what about one’s legacy?
We’ve all heard about “living wills,” but what about “ethical wills?” One of my absolute favorite books is “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card. In it, he introduces a person called a “Speaker for the Dead.” It is this person’s job to forthrightly report on the life of the dearly beloved, warts and all.
Absent such a person (it is science fiction, after all), an ethical will is a means for one to sit down with one’s estate planner and talk about life experiences, what one’s learned (and what one wishes had been learned), family history, personal stories (funny and sad), and the like. And, of course, how one wishes assets to be “divvied up.”
In a recent Harris Interactive poll of 1,200 Americans aged 40 to 59, 77% of those surveyed said that knowing exactly their parent’s values was very important, while only 10% said it was important that they inherited financial assets from their parents. ” (ibid)
Hopefully, we’ve learned what our parents lived, and have, in turn, helped our own children adopt an appropriate value system. But I found this idea to be quite interesting: to not just assume that they know, but to ensure it.
Food for thought.
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