What Is an Ethical Will?

Unlike a last will and testament, which is legally enforceable, an "ethical will" is a letter that you can write and leave to your family or friends when you pass away. Normally, individuals create ethical wills to transmit values, love, and life lessons to their family or their community. These ethical wills are also known as "legacy letters." They are not legally enforceable, but they can be one of the most valued gifts you leave behind for your family. You can help your family to come to terms with your passing by providing a sense of completion with your letter. You can also express love and blessings to those that you cherish and specifically address children, spouses, family and friends.

Your ethical will can share your values and beliefs with future generations in your family, or document important stories from your life so that they won't be lost and forgotten. This letter can also clarify your most important values, beliefs and life experiences and tell your stories so that they won't be lost.

Some of the things that people include in an ethical will are:

  • A family history
  • Personal stories about items left to heirs
  • Expressions of love
  • Requests for forgiveness
  • Important life lessons and wisdom
  • Spiritual values or beliefs
  • Cultural and personal values
  • Hopes and dreams of others in the family

Ethical wills are not the document to use when you want to create specifications about your funeral. There are other documents which can allow you to express your desires for your funeral in a more legally enforceable platform. Your ethical will doesn't have to be on paper, though many individuals choose to use this format. You can also create a video, DVD, or audio recording. Store your ethical will in a careful place and make sure your loved ones know where to look for it should you pass away. You can also update an ethical will if there are changes in your family that render a previous will outdated. If you want more information about ethical wills, contact a probate professional today.