What is an Ethical Will? 

An ethical will, not to be confused with a legal document, such as a living will or a last will and testament, is a legacy document given to your friends and loved ones. You share your thoughts, dreams, stories and reasons for your decisions.  It is a way to pass on personal life lessons or heartfelt wisdom – not just your assets.

Ethical wills have been around for centuries. Originally, they were an oral tradition used by Jewish people to pass on life lessons and ethics, such as the importance of charitable giving. They might explain to future generations how the family money was made and how it is to be used. They do not blame or say anything negative or painful and should not conflict with the contents of a standard will. Rather, an ethical will should be considered a love letter from the heart to those you love.

You don’t need a lawyer to prepare an ethical will; however, some law firms use professional videographers to capture the patriarch/matriarch of families to assist with conveying intent, strong personal messages and may even help avoid family conflict. But today’s technological capabilities –  videos, DVDs, digital scrapbooks, smart phones, social media, and even PowerPoint – have become part of many people’s estate planning toolbox!

If you consider making an ethical will, here are some things to consider including:

  • Your true and positive feelings
  • Words of praise to those who deserve it
  • Apologies and requests for forgiveness
  • Offerings of forgiveness, if necessary
  • Words of wisdom
  • Honest attempts to settle unresolved issues and disputes

When you take the time to share thoughts, reflections, personal wisdom, thoughts and reflections your loved ones will think it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done for them!