As the end of the year approaches, a Des Moines lawyer and author is recommending people create something called an ethical will, a written record of things for which they stand. While you may not have heard the term “ethical will” before, Jo Kline Cebuhar says they’ve been around for a long time.
“The first ethical will recorded was in the book of Genesis, about 35 centuries ago,” Cebuhar says. “It’s been practiced in many different formats, in many different circumstances and around the world for those 3,500 years. It is how you want to be remembered, so it’s a statement of your beliefs and values, your life’s lessons and your hopes for the future.”
An ethical will doesn’t need to be any longer than one page, but some people end up turning them into books. She notes there are several types of wills.
She says an ethical will is not a legal document, so it’s separate from things like a living will, where you talk about your health care decisions, or your well-known last will and testament where you distribute things. Cebuhar’s has written a book on the subject, called, “So Grows The Tree, Creating an Ethical Will.”
While it can be done at any time, Cebuhar says an ethical will might be most helpful if it’s created before the other types.
Cebuhar says: “It truly will put a lot of your wishes into perspective for your loved ones as far as care decisions, and then when you’re handing out those treasures, really encourage people to think about — if I’m going to give this to somebody, what does that thing mean to me, especially heirlooms? Who did I get it from? What are the values I learned from that person? I want to be really thinking about the kind of person that I pass this thing on to.”
She says the creation of an ethical will is an exercise in aspirations, offering up one’s dreams and hopes.
“That’s why this time of year is a great time to think about creating an ethical will,” Cebuhar says. “We’re going to reflect on what’s happened in the last year. We always think about New Year’s as a time of resolutions. So it’s a great time to look forward and say here’s my values. Here’s what I want to concentrate on in the coming year or people I want to keep around me, things I want to get done in the coming year. Share those thoughts with your loved ones. I encourage people to do that.”
To reach Cebuhar or to buy her book, visit the website: www.sogrowsthetree.com.