An ethical will is a document that allows you to pass on your personal values, life experiences, and life lessons to your family.  Creating an ethical will is completely voluntary.  It is an individual choice for each person to decide whether this is a document that he or she would like to create and leave for his or her family.

Why You Might Want to Write an Ethical Will

  • It provides you with an opportunity to share your own personal story with your family, including your thoughts, memories, and values. This might be especially important if you have young children or grandchildren that you want to pass these ideas on to.
  • It allows you to leave something meaningful behind, so that your descendants can learn from your experiences, not only your children, but future generations that have yet to be born.
  • It gives you the opportunity to tell future generations about yourself and your stories, ensuring that you will not be forgotten. It is the natural human desire, to want to know that he or she will be remembered.
  • You can benefit from the process of writing an ethical will as you reflect on your life, accomplishments, and relationships. It can provide a sense of peace and satisfaction as you look back and realize everything your life stands for and what you accomplished.
  • You can explain to your family the logic you followed in writing out your legal will, why you’re choosing to leave certain assets to certain individuals.This can help relieve any bad feelings among family members when your will is read if they understand why you made the choices you did.
  • Writing an ethical will can provide a feeling of completion in our lives.Everyone wants to come to the end of their life feeling like it was worthwhile.
  • If you do not tell your story for future generations, who will?Putting your story down on paper ensures that it can live on in perpetuity.
  • You can distribute personal property which has little financial value and is not mentioned in your legal will, such as:
    • Photographs,
    • Recipes,
    • Clothing items, and
    • Mementos of personal value.

When to Write Your Ethical Will

You can write an ethical will at any point of your life.  You may decide to start it when your first child is born, or you may decide to sit down as a senior when you know that your life is coming to an end. An ethical will can be written all at once or can it can be written over time, adding in new ideas as you continue to learn and grow throughout your life.

How to Write an Ethical Will

Sitting down and staring with a blank piece of paper can be rather daunting.  Some things that you can think about to help you get started in the ethical will writing process include:

  • Significant events or experiences in your life,
  • Happiest, most joyful memories,
  • Challenging experiences that helped you mature as a human being,
  • Your dreams for the future of your loved ones and for the world in general,
  • Life lessons learned during difficult times and how those lessons helped shape the person you ultimately became,
  • The impact your loved ones have had on your own life,
  • Apologies or confessions you want or need to make to loved ones,
  • Your beliefs and core values that helped shape you,
  • How you made decisions based on those beliefs and core values,
  • What you learned from your parents or grandparents that you would like to pass on to future generations,
  • Things or people you are grateful for,
  • How you dealt with any moral dilemmas,
  • If you could live your life over again, what would you change? What would you keep the same?

When the time comes, sit down with pen and paper, or in front of your computer and start putting down your thoughts.  Use these ideas as a starting point and see where your thoughts take you from there.