“We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation
to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.”
-Psalm 78:4 KJV
An Ethical Will is Not Transactional — It’s Meaningful
An ethical Will (or Legacy Love Letter) is a personal document you create to communicate your values, experiences, life lessons and family heritage to your family. Unlike a legal Will which focuses on passing along your physical assets, property and items of monetary value, an ethical one serves to share guiding principles, memories, spiritual values, stories of personal faith, family objects with personal (but not necessarily monetary) value and future wishes for your family.
Writing a Legacy Love Letter
Because a Legacy Love Letter is not a legal document, and is not made for the purpose of distributing assets, the content and form of your letter is up to you. Here are four themes you may wish to cover in your Legacy Love Letter:
Beliefs and Values. What do you believe about God? What are your guiding principles when it comes to marriage, raising children, church and ministry, handling money, etc.?
Life Lessons. What were some of the defining moments of your life, and what did you learn from them? What experiences and people are you most grateful for? Think of significant events, moments and experiences in your life. What would you like them to know about your hopes for their futures?
Personal feelings. How can you communicate love to them? In other words, how have they impacted your life in a positive way? Is there anyone you owe an apology or confession you’ve never been able to communicate? An ethical Will can be a powerful place to share these feelings.
Message of Hope. What are some of the most meaningful passages of Scripture to you? What message of hope and encouragement do you wish to leave to your family and friends?
A passage from Psalm 16 resonates with us. It says, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.” That verse prompted some heart-stirring conversations that we’d like to share with you.
We are so thankful for the “good inheritance” we have received from God. As we grow older, we want each of you to know how much we love you, and deeply appreciate the many ways you have enriched our lives. We’re especially pleased at many evidences of the Lord’s blessings in your lives. And we want you to know that the greatest pleasure you could give us is to pass on to your children, as we have tried to do with you, that same commitment to live all of your life as service to God.
We see our Will as an ongoing testimony of our love for the Lord and for you, and that is reflected in the way we have divided our estate among you and the ministries we love. We hope that when the time comes, someone would read Psalm 16, as an encouragement for our family to continue serving the Lord with gladness for generations to come.
We love you,
Mom and Dad
Make it easy for your loved ones to locate the documents they’ll need when the time comes
Contents List. A list of the contents in your Legacy File
Duplicate Copy. If you create a duplicate copy of your Legacy File for your executor and for a safe deposit box, you should provide contact and location information.
Finances. Provide a list of bank accounts, CDs, mutual funds, and other investments with institution names, account names, and account numbers.
Funeral Instructions. Provide details about your wishes for the funeral service, funeral home, burial arrangements.
Important Documents. Create a “catch all” file for all other important documents your family may need such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, titles, etc.
Insurance. Create a single file with all insurance information – including auto, home, life, health, disability, etc. List the company name, policy numbers, and contact information.
Monthly Budget. Include a copy of your monthly budget to help your family keep track of bills and run your household once you are gone.
Passwords. If you’re like most people, you have probably have a large and growing list of passwords, usernames, and PIN numbers for your bank accounts, web sites, voicemail, and more. Make a list of these important access codes in a single file.
Spiritual Will. Sometimes called an ethical will is a “love letter” from you expressing your spiritual values, your love for family, your life lessons and beliefs.
Tax Returns. It is recommended that you keep up to 7 years of tax returns on file in the event that you are audited by the IRS. This precaution will spare your family from a lot of unnecessary hassle if you are no longer around.
Will. A signed copy of your Will, including information about guardianship, beneficiaries, executor, power of attorney, financial accounts, and charitable interests.
Source: Selected concepts based on the Legacy Drawer at www.daveramsey.com
If you have included us in your Will, we’d like to thank you appropriately and be sure we understand and honor your gift intentions. You can help us do that by sending us a “Notice of Bequest” letter. Here is a sample:
In recognition of my strong belief and confidence in its mission, I have made a gift by Will to Pacific Garden Mission.
If I make any change to this provision or if the value of the bequest or gift changes substantially, I will notify Pacific Garden Mission of such change.
I understand that all information listed below will be kept in confidence unless I authorize its release.
Charitable Gift Annuities
CGAs are a simple arrangement that involves a charitable gift and an annuity. You simply make a gift (part of which is tax deductible), and receive fixed annuity payments each year for the remainder of your life. At the end of your life, the charitable gift goes to support our work.
Did you know appreciated stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in a taxable investment portfolio can be transferred as gifts to support Kingdom work? Giving stocks provides a significant opportunity to avoid capital gain tax, receive a deduction and simplify your giving.
A charitable trust allows you to bless a ministry you care about while still providing an income for you or your heirs. With a charitable lead trust, money is paid first to the ministry of your choice for a specified amount of time. Then at the end of the trust period, the balance goes to a designated beneficiary. A charitable remainder trust reverses that order, paying your heir first.
Retirement Assets and IRA Giving
Designating a ministry as the beneficiary of your retirement account offers a number of tax advantages. Unlike individual beneficiaries, ministries are not required to pay income tax on withdrawals from these accounts, plus the sum you give will not be included in your adjusted gross income.
Gifts In Kind
Gifts in Kind refer to the practice of giving actual goods or services to a ministry versus donating the money to buy them. These types of gifts can be as creative as the person giving them!
Real Estate Gifts
Properties that can be given to us include personal residences, vacation homes, commercial property or land. Many people like to give gifts of real estate because the inherent value of the property far exceeds that of any other single asset. It’s very popular because even individuals with modest estates typically own real estate.
Point of Death Transfers
POD Transfers are a way of designating beneficiaries to receive your assets automatically at the time of your death, without having to go through probate court. They also allow you to specify the percentage of assets each person or entity will receive.
Donor Advised Funds
One of the simplest ways to give real estate, stocks, mutual funds or commodities is through a Donor Advised Fund. This is an account you create directly with us for setting aside money or assets, receiving immediate tax benefits and allowing you the flexibility to distribute gifts over time. It’s like having your own charitable giving account.
The material on this website has been prepared to provide general information regarding planned giving. It is not intended to serve as legal, tax, or other financial advice.
You should consult with your own attorney, CPA, or other advisor regarding your specific circumstance.
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