Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: So Grows The Tree: Creating an Ethical Will

"Ethical will" is a term that has gained increased recognition in recent years. I'd heard the term, but even though I am an estate planning attorney, I was not exactly sure what one was. Then I read So Grows The Tree: Creating an Ethical Will by Jo Kline Cebuhar, J.D. Her book quickly draws you in, reads quickly, is sprinkled with motivating quotes, and ends with a road map to creating your own ethical will.

Inspired by a letter, or ethical will, left by her Uncle Bill, the author provides the reader with definitions, historical context, contemporary examples, and steps create ones own document. Based on this text, I walked away understanding that an ethical will is an expression of the creators:
  1. beliefs and values;
  2. life lessons; and
  3. hopes for the future.
Do not confuse it with a "will", which is a legal document whereby you nominate guardians for children, personal representatives, and distribute probate property at death. Nor is it a "living will", also known as a declaration to physicians, stating your wishes on health care if you are in an end of life state. An "ethical will" is a means of crafting an enduring message. It can embellish your genealogical research and family tree. Moreover, an ethical will does not have to be in a written form, although that is common. It can be an audio recording, video taped message, embellished journal, scrapbook, or photo album.

Once you have your legal papers in place (i.e. powers of attorney, will, etc.), embrace your creative side and consider crafting an ethical will. It is a lovely process in an area of somber documents. I highly recommend reading So Grows The Tree: Creating an Ethical Will by Jo Kline Cebuhar, J.D. as you go down this path.

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