What is an Ethical Will?
An Ethical Will reflects the "voice of the heart." Think of it as a love letter to your family. Every ethical will is as unique as the person writing it. They can mean more than any material possession you might bequest in your legal will. A living will is also important; it ensures that relatives and doctors understand your medical treatment choices and preferences.
There are common themes that run through many of them. Older ethical wills contained burial instructions, blessings and personal and spiritual values.
Here's a partial list of common themes seen in more modern ethical wills:
- Important personal values and beliefs
- Important spiritual values
- Hopes and blessings for future generations
- Life's lessons
- Forgiving others and asking for forgiveness
Why Write an Ethical Will?
There are many personal reasons for writing an ethical will. Here are some of them:
- We all want to be remembered and we all will leave something behind
- If we don't tell our stories and the stories from whom we came, no one else will and they will lost forever
- It helps you identify what you value most and what you stand for
- By articulating what we value now, we can take steps to insure the continuation of those values for future generations
- You learn a lot about yourself in the process of writing an Ethical Will
- It helps us come to terms with our mortality by creating something of meaning that will live on after we are gone
- It provides a sense of completion in our lives
- Your Ethical Will allows your professional advisors more clarity with the client's vision, mission, values and goals.
It is very important to recognize that an ethical will is absolutely not a legally binding document like a traditional will. These ethical wills are not very widespread but they have been around for a long time and even are mentioned in the Bible. The intent of these is much more about your values and your ethics than it is your money and your stuff. It is much more personal and can be written whenever you are ready to share your own experiences with the ones who mean the most in your life.
Contact me if you are interested in hearing more about Ethical Wills.
Stacey R. Edwards Jones, Managing Partner