Ethical Will

Ethical Wills are documents designed to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. It is not a legal document and typically it is in the form of a letter written by parents to children or grandchildren. It is drafted by you, not me or any other attorney. Today it does not need to be in the form of a letter but could be an audio or video recording.

Ethical wills often contain meaningful family stories, personal values and beliefs, statements of faith, blessings, advice, and expressions of love. They may even share regrets, apologies, and final requests. There are no rules or laws about the length or content of an ethical will. It can be a few lines, or paragraphs or many pages in length.

Every ethical will is unique. And, while there is no standard format for writing one, samples of ethical wills can be found at this link.

The process of writing the ethical will can be rewarding. The centerpiece of the letters I have seen are a few short sentences about what values are important to the individual. However, what most distinguishes an ethical will from a will dealing with one’s assets, is that there is a explanation of how these values came to be important, whether they were passed down from previous generations or, learned through real life lessons.

Wikipedia has a terrific article on ethical wills covering these topics:

Medieval – 18th Century
Modern Uses
Content of an Ethical Will