How to Pass Down A Legacy of Family Values: The Family Office Unveils Its Latest Service -- An Ethical Will

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An ethical will is a values legacy providing a valuable compass of ethics--an expression of beliefs, ideas, life-defining experiences or other intangibles which, when unwritten, often go unknown.

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The unexamined life is not worth living.—Socrates

Begun in the 13th century, an ethical will can be a vital component of the estate plan because it reflects your concerns and hopes for the next generation,” says Steven Abernathy, Chairman and co-founder of the Abernathy Group II Family Office. “It is a means to bridge legal and financial documents with an expression that is highly personal and unique.”

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living.” A will and estate plan clearly specify the distribution of assets—but what about personal values, memories, ideas about mistakes to be avoided after decades of trial and error, as well as general wisdom? The ethical will provides families with the chance to know their loved ones better, and, for the writer to express what often goes unsaid.

“We take a multi-generational approach to nearly every aspect of what we do; it’s vital to educate the young to preserve assets it took a lifetime for the head of the family of earn that have grown over time," says Brian Luster, President and co-founder of the Abernathy Group II Family Office.

It is said you can’t take it with you, but, you can let the generations to come know what you valued. Families are guided through the composition of the ethical will in a three-step process to clarify the concept, write, and discuss the best strategy to share the completed document. Facilitating the inter-generational conversation can have long-lasting, positive effects and lead to a greater understanding of a family member’s life, their intentions, and the personal ethics they believe should be carried on by the next generation.

"Ethical wills are a voice for the soul; they offer an important legacy and connect the generations," says psychotherapist Andrea Spiritos, LCSW. "Those who are at a crossroads have a great gift--a reminder of the person who wrote them, as well as a touchstone for guidance."

“A client’s personal history, such as stories of how they grew up, what life lessons most influenced them, as well as how to honor their legacy are all possible facets for the ethical will,” says Mr. Luster.

Opening this dialogue successfully may illuminate complex estate decisions concerning a loved one’s wealth—heirs will now possess, in addition to legal and tax documents which are impersonal and cold, a warm, unique, personal communication. In addition to the written document, clients may opt to record their ethical will, or a portion of it, on video.

Mr. Abernathy added, “It’s easy for a client to say that one child will inherit their house and the other will inherit their investments; we set up the necessary structures to pass wealth to the next generation in an estate plan. However, intangibles, which are highly personal, can be easily forgotten or overlooked if they are not captured.”

Here is an example of the first of 3 Layers of Questions the heads of families might consider discussing when adding an ethical will to the estate planning strategy:

1. What values or beliefs are of special significance to you? Why?
2. What are your wishes and hopes for the generations that follow you?
3. What are your greatest life lessons? How have they influenced you?
4. Do you have any regrets?

These four questions can create the foundation to reflect upon life’s accomplishments and priorities, however, this is not a complete list. To learn more, or, to find out the additional questions we recommend, contact us.

About The Abernathy Group II Family Office:
Steven Abernathy and Brian Luster co-founded The Abernathy Group II Family Office and the country's first Physician Family Office (PFO). The Abernathy Group Family Office sells no products, receives no commissions, and is independent, employee-owned, and governed by its Advisory Board comprised entirely of thought-leading professionals. They are regular contributors to several publications and blogs including The Huffington Post.

The information contained in this article is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. The Abernathy Group II does not hold itself out as a legal or tax adviser. If you wish to receive a legal opinion or tax advice on the matter(s) in this report please contact our offices and we will refer you to an appropriate legal practitioner.

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