Have you ever heard someone mention their “ethical will” and wondered what in the world they were talking about? We’re here to tell you what you need to know.
First, an “ethical will” or “legacy letter” is not legally binding. They don’t bequeath assets or spell out your last wishes.
Ethical wills are documents that communicate values and life experiences to your family or loved ones. They express your thoughts and feelings about what’s most important to you to those you care about. They can be created by a person of any faith – or of no faith at all.
And many people find that writing down their personal history eases the existential pain about the end of life.
Keep reading to learn more:
How do I Write an Ethical Will?
Unlike a Last Will and Testament, ethical wills can take many forms. Because they are not a legal document, you are free to be as creative as you want.
Many people choose to simply write up a document, often just a single page. Others create slideshows, photo albums, recipe collections, or a gathering of favorite quotes.
The document (or collection) can be a one-time creation, something you add to at each of life’s milestones (retirement, the birth of a grandchild, etc.), or something you work on throughout your life. It can be intended for your children, grandchildren, spouse or partner, best friend, and more.
There really are no rules!
How do I Create My Ethical Will?
According to AARP, you should begin your ethical will by “jotting down notes about your beliefs, life lessons and hopes for the future. You might include details about your family history. You also may want to express gratitude toward family and friends or request forgiveness for past actions.”
If you plan on creating a multi-media project, you might also start gathering photos, collecting favorite quotes, filming video, and more.
Ask yourself, “What have I learned during my lifetime that I’d like to share?”
Here are some topics that others have chosen to include in their ethical wills. Feel free to use these questions as you wish, skip some, or add your own:
- What values are important to me?
- What are my spiritual beliefs?
- Are there any special sayings, traditions, or rituals that have been passed down through the family?
- What would I like to pass down to my grandchildren or other loved ones?
- What books and movies influenced me and in what way?
Words of Wisdom
- What advice can I offer to others about living their lives? Do I have any wisdom to pass on to the next generation?
- What has life taught me?
- What have I learned from my parents or grandparents that I want to pass on?
- If I could change one thing in the world, what would I change and why?
- What do I want my family to know about me that they might not already be aware of?
- Have I ever had a life-altering experience? How did this affect me?
- What was the most significant/meaningful moment in my life?
- What made my life worth living? A special relationship? Work? Children? Hobbies?
- Did I fulfill all the dreams of my youth?
- Who is or was the most important person in my life? What did I learn from them?
- Were there any others who greatly impacted my life? Who?
- What am I most proud of?
- What was the most difficult decision I ever made?
- Is there anything in life I wish I had done differently? Do I need to request forgiveness or make amends with anyone?
- If I knew I only had one year left to live, what would I do?
- How did I choose the recipients for my charitable gifts and financial inheritance?
Creating an ethical will is simple, fun, and FREE. Why not start on your own project today and give your loved ones something to cherish for years to come?