Is it possible to use your estate plan to pass along your value system to your beneficiaries along with your “stuff”? That’s the question posed by Robert Powell in a 2012 Wall Street Journal article on estate planning.

“Educators, financial advisers and technology providers are approaching the task on two fronts: encouraging and helping older adults to share their stories and values before they die, and teaching adult children and grandchildren how to tap their parents’ and grandparents’ thoughts,” Powell observes.

Tim Maurer, co-author of The Ultimate Financial Plan: Balancing Your Money and Life, admonishes both seniors and their adult children to be proactive about the older generation’s intangible legacy.

At Geyer & Associates, we agree with what Richard B. Schneider, writing in HG.org Legal Resources, has to say:. “Not only can you leave a legacy of your actions, since those certainly speak louder than words, but you can incorporate those values into your estate plan itself.”

  • Values-generated estate planning techniques may involve a trust, where a portion of a trust may be earmarked for a specific purpose, such as helping a child start or buy a business, buy a home, or attend college.
  • You may enable children to pursue careers they love by dedicating funds towards buying their health insurance, (so they don’t need to take jobs they don’t like just to get benefits), explains Ken Kam, writing in Forbes.
  • You can pass along your religious values by funding children’s or grandchildren’s religious education.

One way to pass along values is through what is called an ethical will. This tradition, explain Steven Abernathy and Brian Luster in wealthmanagement.com, can be traced back to the 13th century. The purpose of an ethical will isn’t to serve as a legal document, but “to bequeath the intangibles – lessons learned by the grantor over a lifetime, personal history, and wishes for the family’s future.”

Today’s ethical wills may be in the form of an audio or video, or a photo album with special comments, sharing life lessons learned with loved ones.