The Importance of an Ethical Will (Legacy Letter) and How to Create One

Categories: Blog

Ethical wills, unlike legal wills, are not written by a lawyer; they are written by you.  Also called legacy letters, these memorable keepsakes for your family or friends include life lessons, values, blessings, and hope for the future.   Usually written by grandparents to their grandchildren and parents to their children, these legacy resources should be part of every person’s estate planning and can be read while a person is living or also after death. For Catholics hoping to transition their Catholic values and traditions to future generations, they are invaluable.

Barry K. Baines, author of Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper, advises not to wait.  In his book, he shares that as soon as you articulate your values, you begin to live your life more intentionally. There are other reasons to do so, says Baine. These documents can bring enormous peace of mind and remind you to live your life as you want to be remembered.

The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida has created resources for parishioners to articulate their values, hopes, and blessings for their children and grandchildren with its Legacy Journal (which includes space for a Legacy Letter) and instructions about how to create a Catholic Legacy Video.

“We’ve done Catholic Legacy Planning Seminars for years and what we continually hear from our attendees are questions about how to transition their values and faith to their children and grandchildren. Our Catholic Legacy Resources assist parishioners with tools to do that,” said Janet Caramello, Director of Philanthropy at The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida.

In the last year, The Catholic Foundation has created beautiful resources for parishioners in the Diocese of Orlando to help articulate their legacy. The Catholic Legacy Journal and the instructions about “How to Create a Catholic Legacy” video are two of the most recent resources that assist in helping parents or grandchildren share their life stories.  Research shows when members of a family know the stories of their parents and grandparents, especially the obstacles they have overcome, they are more likely to have higher feelings of self-esteem, be more resilient, have more robust identities, and better coping skills.

The Catholic Legacy Journal has instructions about how to complete it and includes a template for a Legacy Letter at the end of the journal.   Grandparents can create one for each of their grandchildren, simply by personalizing the last two pages of the Catholic Legacy Journal for each grandchild.   The journal has room to share your sacramental journey of Catholic faith.  It can be a beautiful gift for a grandchild, especially during the Lenten season. Click here if you’d like to access Catholic Legacy Resources or download your FREE copy of The Catholic Foundation’s Catholic Legacy Journal.

Attorney Wendy Mara of Mara Law, PA presented on Wills and Estates in our Catholic Legacy Planning Seminar in January during the first two parts of our series that had 180 total registrants.  The third session in the three-part series will take place Tuesday, February 2, at 1pm via Zoom and we will have more information about the importance of ethical wills during our next Catholic Legacy Planning Seminar.  There are still spaces available to join us for this session (“Taxes and Estates: Preparing Today for a Brighter Tomorrow”) with Certified Financial Planner Darrell DeVaney from F4 Wealth Advisors. Click here to register for the February 2 webinar.

For more information about upcoming seminars or how you can leave a legacy gift to your parish, school, or ministry, email Janet Caramello, MBA, CAP®, CFRE at jcaramello@cfocf.org or call (407) 246-4802.