As we all endure this COVID-19 “shut down,” it gives us pause to reflect on our lives – the way we interact with one another, what is truly important in life and our priorities. We develop an awareness of the impact we have on others and the importance of modeling what we believe so that others who look up to us benefit from our guidance and wisdom. If this describes how you are feeling these days, drafting an Ethical Will may be something you should consider.
You may be asking yourself, “What in the world is an Ethical Will?” Well, an Ethical Will (or sometimes call a Legacy Letter) is a document that passes a person's ethical values from one generation to the next. In recent years, the practice has been more widely used by the general public. According to the American Bar Associate it is described as an aid to estate planning, though it has nothing to do with passing along your tangible possessions.
The goal of writing an Ethical Will is to link a person to both their family and cultural history, clarify their ethical and spiritual values and communicate a legacy to future generations. It is an opportunity for us to characterize our lives as we see and feel it, and not how others may perceive us. It is a rendition of our personal life story and journey.
Writing an Ethical Will addresses a person's need to belong, be known, be remembered, have one's life make a difference, bless and be blessed. Ethical Wills are written by people of every age, ethnicity, faith tradition, economic circumstance and education level. They can be a few lines or several pages long. Its importance rests in it message.
The content of an Ethical Will may be like that of a memoir or autobiography but is differentiated by its intention to transmit love and learning to future generations. Writings can include family history and cultural and spiritual values, blessings and expressions of love for our family members and friends, achievements we are proud of as well as regrets and disappointments from which we have learned important life lessons, our hopes and dreams for children and grandchildren, requests for forgiveness for past actions and our wish for ways we would like to be remembered after we pass. Family stories (and secrets!) can be passed on through an Ethical Will as well.
Here is a website that posts several examples of Ethical Wills. https://celebrationsoflife.net/ethicalwills/examples/
With our Smart Law platform, we make it easier than ever to start and finish your estate planning. Should you wish to know how an ethical will fits into your estate plan give our Smart Law platform a try!