Jan 1, 2010

Corn, Not Cinderella's Castle

Many years ago my brother took his two young children to Florida. The kids were royalty that week, flying first class, partaking in special character breakfasts at Disney, riding camels at Busch Gardens, sampling Parisian street fare at Epcot, and buying souvenirs in sufficient quantity to delight any Disney shareholder. They topped off their trip with a visit to my home, where the sum total of the day's entertainment was running around the yard, hanging out, and an evening barbecue.

Back home in New York, my two-year-old niece was asked to name her most memorable vacation experience. Turns out, it wasn't visiting Cinderella's castle. Wasn't meeting Goofy in person. Or getting the pink tiara and matching tutu and tights. In fact, her favorite experience didn't have a price tag. What she liked best was helping her aunt (my wife) husk the corn for the barbecue. Chatting with her while folding the laundry followed in close second.

I think this anecdote is particularly topical as we emerge from the shopping and gift-giving mania of the last weeks. As the old song goes and my niece's response illustrates, the best things in life are free. Certainly the most meaningful ones are. And that's a philosophy that can be incorporated into your estate planning, too. While we certainly want to pass on any material riches we have to the next generation, let's not forget that the most enduring riches are not the monetary kind. They are the intangibles - who we are, our values and beliefs.

We obviously pass on those priceless intangible gifts by living our lives a certain way. But many of my clients also like to create an ethical will to convey their values to their loved ones in a more formalized and concrete way. An ethical will is simply a record of your hopes, aspirations, spiritual and personal values, beliefs, life's lessons. An ethical will is not a legal document. It is simply a record of what you believe to be important and that you wish to share with your family, friends and/or community. It can be recorded and expressed any way you want. You certainly don't need an attorney... all you need is a little time and some introspection.

If you would like some suggestions on how to organize your thoughts for your ethical will, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Karp, for enlightening me about ethical wills and sharing such a priceless anectdote. My assets are important to my way of life but my values are much more important.

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