Writing Your Ethical Will

 

ETHICAL WILLS: My Experience

One of my cherished childhood memories are my experiences with my great-grandmother. As a child I have the fondest memories of her “birthday cake” which she made rain or fall for each of her grandchildren on their birthday. As an adult I treasure my great grandmothers cake recipe and the opportunities I have had to talk with my grandmother about her thoughts on faith, on emigrating to the United States, parenting and many other topics. These experiences and conversations have provided me a type of “ethical will”.  Through them I have gained incredible insights into family, life and other topics. Unfortunately, many families do not have the same opportunities to explore their family history, whether through illness, distance or otherwise.

One way to preserve your family history and legacy is to include an Ethical Will as part of your estate plan.

WHAT IS AN ETHICAL WILL?

An ethical will, put simply, is a non-binding document you include with part of your estate planning documents. It does not have any legal effect, but instead offers a chance to provide treasured insights.

The purpose of the ethical will is to give your heirs, whether they are children, grandchildren, or others, a set of instructions. It can take many forms, whether in the form of a letter, video, memoir  or other document. You can use this to give a 20,000 foot view of your life, the things that matter to you, your hopes, dreams, desires, wishes and lasting message that you want to provide. An ethical will does not expressly deal with your finances, but rather the legacy that you wish to leave behind. See Barron’s article on Ethical Wills (HERE)

WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN MY ETHICAL WILL?

There is no right or wrong as far as the scope of your Ethical Will. Among the areas you can consider addressing are life events, goals, values and your beliefs. This can provide tremendous insights for future generations and provide a deeply personable connection that may otherwise be unavailable. Other thoughts are available (HERE)

STARTING QUESTIONS FOR YOUR ETHICAL WILL

  • What are you most grateful for?
  • What was the best piece of advice you have ever received?
  • What has made you the most happy?
  • What do you want your heirs to accomplish with their inheritance?
  • What is the best advice you could give to your grandchildren?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • Who were your biggest influences?
  • What were some of the life-changing events in your life?