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Reasons to Write an Ethical Will

What is an Ethical Will and when should you make one? Learn why you may want to write an Ethical Will when estate planning and what is included in an one.

Writing an Ethical Will is completely voluntary. While a legal Will covers how your assets and property will be passed down, this other type of Will allows you to leave your loved ones a record of memories, values, life lessons, and wishes. Keep reading to learn more about: 

  • Reasons You Would Need an Ethical Will

  • When to Write an Ethical Will

  • How to Write an Ethical Will

  • The Best Structure for an Ethical Will

Reasons You Would Need an Ethical Will

Writing a standard Will means taking stock of your possessions, your assets, your titled property, and the valuables you want your family and friends to have after you’re gone. It’s an important part of estate planning. But you have more to pass on than that. There’s your life story, what you’ve learned along the way, guiding principles you’ve stuck to, and personal memories that you may wish to share with your family members and the generations after them.

Writing an Ethical Will allows you to look back on your life – your decisions, your accomplishments, what has been the most meaningful to you, and what you learned throughout the years. An Ethical Will is an opportunity for self-reflection and even a chance to identify future goals and some things you’d still like to improve upon. Taking the time to write an Ethical Will also let you share your thoughts with your loved ones and leave a written record of wise advice and values for the younger ones in your family. 

Then there are the personal items you own and treasure that may not have financial value, but are meaningful and full of sentimental value, like: 

  • Favorite recipes

  • Family photo albums

  • Personal stories

  • Items of clothing

  • Objects that have special meaning to your family members

Seeing that these items are accounted for and given to those you wish to have them can preserve treasured objects and memories for future generations. 

Additionally, if you have divided property and assets among your family with a legal Will or made changes to your Will, an Ethical Will can let you explain your intentions to your benefactors. Being able to tell them why you made the decisions that you did can help prevent misunderstandings, confusion, and hurt feelings among family members. 

When to Write an Ethical Will

You can start writing your Ethical Will any time you choose. After you start a family, you might start thinking about the values and traditions you’d like to pass down to your children and grandchildren. In your later years, you might enjoy the chance to look back at the lessons you learned while building your career, raising children, and caring for your family. 

An Ethical Will doesn’t need to be written all at once. You can start one and add to it during important milestones, or write one and add in extra thoughts and memories during times of reflection. If you’re thinking about when to start estate planning, including an Ethical Will at any point in the process can be a good idea. 

How to Write an Ethical Will

When you write a legal Will, you’re thinking of your property and what you own. When you write an Ethical Will, it’s a little more personal, a little more about your story and how you’ve felt throughout your life. When you start writing an Ethical Will, you’ll want to think about the most important moments of your life. When were you most proud? What has brought you the most happiness? What has been challenging for you? Is there any advice you’d like to pass down to family members? Are there any personal philosophies or mottos you’d like to share? 

Creating this type of Will is also a way to share childhood stories that your grandchildren or great-grandchildren can learn from, and it lets you document family history in your own words. An Ethical Will also gives you the chance to convey to certain family members and loved ones your feelings about how they made a difference in your life. It’s a final personal statement from you to them. 

The Best Structure for an Ethical Will

Your Ethical Will can be as unique as your own life story. There is no one format for an Ethical Will, and it can be as formal or informal as you wish. Writing an Ethical Will gives you a chance to get creative – poems, songs, photos, videos, and voice recordings can all be included as part of an Ethical Will. You can write an Ethical Will like a formal letter or a diary entry, or turn your memories into a scrapbook. What’s most important in writing your Ethical Will is that you do it, and that you do it in a way that feels natural for you. Getting down the important stuff for your loved ones to cherish. Leaving a record of what you’d like to share with them. The best Ethical Will for you is one that’s reflective of you. 

Creating an Estate Plan can involve several types of documents. Wills and Trusts are just some of the documents you may want to set up for your heirs. Getting started on your Estate Plan at any time can let you plan in advance and be prepared for the unexpected. Planning for the transfer of financial assets is important, but starting an Ethical Will to keep a record of all of your valuable lessons, memories, and sentimental items can be a gift to your family as well. 

At Trust & Will, we can help you get all of the estate planning documents you need. Do you have questions about making your Ethical Will? Are you ready to begin planning for your family’s future? Reach out to us today and let us help you get started.

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.