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In Memorandum

The term “in memoriam” suggests an act performed or a gift given in memory of, or as a memorial to, someone held in high esteem. For example, a person may establish a named endowment fund at a favored charity or community foundation as a means of perpetually honoring the memory of a loved one. This can be done during life with an outright gift or later through a will bequest or trust remainder.

But what does “in memorandum” mean? Don’t reach for a dictionary because you won’t find a definition there. It’s a word I coined myself to suggest an estate planning idea you may want to consider – something in addition to funeral suggestions, instructions regarding the distribution and use of personal effects, and other such matters. By “in memorandum” I mean a very personal and lasting collection of thoughts, along the lines of an ethical will.

With your will and other estate planning documents finalized, take a few moments to prepare a memorandum or letter to your loved ones expressing your thoughts of love and concern. You may want to write a different letter to each family member. Another possibility is to sit in front of a video camera and tape your personal comments.

However you do it, you can be sure this final communication will probably be cherished more than any bequest you may leave behind. It will likely be handed down from generation to generation as a priceless family heirloom.

Unlike other estate planning “documents,” this personal memorandum goes beyond any legal or probate requirements. You can write it and rewrite it as often as you wish. It can be completely confidential.

Here are some things you may want to include:

  • Expressions of love and endearment;
  • A summary of your philosophy of life, including your values and beliefs;
  • Thoughts concerning your hopes and expectations for your loved ones;
  • An explanation of your motives in making bequests to your favorite charities. This can be a powerful way to communicate your values and to help your children and grandchildren understand why you supported certain causes during your life. It can be a means to inspire them to follow your example.

A final communication to your loved ones, thoughtfully and lovingly prepared, will serve as a lasting reminder of your life and love. It will also help them through the difficult grieving process. And it will help them explain to children yet unborn who you were and what you valued. For examples check out the Columbus Jewish Foundation website’s Endowment “Book of Life” video at www.columbusjewishfoundation.org.

Please make the time in the next few days to prepare a letter to your loved ones. It may well be the most important document you ever write.

Article appears as originally published in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle, Thursday April 23, 2017.

Jackie Jacobs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Jewish Foundation, the Central Ohio Jewish community’s planned giving and endowment headquarters.

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