Tell Your Family What You Really Think

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

Having your financial affairs in order when you die makes a difficult time more bearable for your survivors. But leaving a lasting and thoughtful legacy involves more than money. (We do cover the money part in detail, too.)

Martin Kuritz, a retired estate and financial planner, spent more than 30 years helping families economically prepare for the inevitable. His book, The Beneficiary Book: A Family Information Organizer, is a fill-in-the-answers guide that shows readers how to cross those financial t's and dot all the i's. But it was his mother who taught him the softer side of estate planning. When she passed away, among her important papers was a five-page handwritten letter to her son composed soon after she discovered she had cancer.

That moving letter -- called an "ethical will" -- showed Kuritz that a legacy of love is just as important as having all of your important financial papers in place. An ethical will is free from the constraints of legal documents such as a living will or a last will and testament. You don't need a lawyer to compose one, and it should be shared with loved ones during the writer's lifetime.

If it sounds like a difficult document to produce, you're right: It may be the hardest thing you ever commit to paper. Kuritz has a few suggestions to get you started. Consider including:

  • Words of praise to those who deserve it
  • An apology (if necessary)
  • A request for forgiveness (if necessary)
  • An offering of forgiveness (if necessary)
  • Words of wisdom (without lecturing)
  • An honest attempt to settle unresolved issues and disputes

Once you're on a roll, you may discover your hidden autobiographer. Consider including some interesting remembrances about you and your ancestors. Share what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. What do you consider the most important things you've accomplished? What things do you cherish most about the person you are writing to? Most embarrassing high school moment? Best kiss ever?

Photos can fade and inheritances are eventually spent. But an ethical will can provide inspiration for generations to come.

Not to bum you out, but we have plenty more about estate planning and some essential things you should do. Start with our 60-Second Guide to Estate Planning and, if at all possible, please don't die before reading this.

For more Foolishness:

Fool writer Dayana Yochim really doesn’t mean to be a Debbie Downer all the time. For a more uplifting tale, read about the night her Honda Accord was stolen! The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 849060, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/27/2016 8:55:27 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 11 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,199.33 30.06 0.00%
S&P 500 2,139.43 -3.73 0.00%
NASD 5,250.27 -33.13 0.00%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes