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Estate Planning

Values-Based Estate Planning: What is an Ethical Will?

Learn about Ethical Will

An adequate Estate Plan often attempts to touch on every facet of an individual’s life, such as their property, family, and innermost wishes for how to take care of both after one’s passing. Now, there is a growing trend that also touches on the spiritual characteristics one may wish to impart to their family after passing. This trend focuses on an ethical will, a concept said to date back to the Old Testament. An ethical will is simply a document that places one’s values in writing to be imparted to their loved ones after death. Unlike a deathbed message, an ethical will is merely a somber reflection upon one’s life and the hopes that person has for their heirs.

Unlike other estate planning documents, ethical wills have no requirements nor any required formats. It is literally a blank document and can be as unique as one wishes to make it. The overall goal of an ethical will is to impart one’s values that shaped their life for their heirs to understand.

If one is interested in drafting an ethical will, authorities point to these questions to assist in guiding the process.

    1) What were the most important things that you learned from your parents? Your grandparents? Your children?
    2) What religious ceremonies or holidays meant the most to you?
    3) How did your ethnic heritage influence your life?
    4) Did you have any life-changing experiences? Why were they significant?
    5) Looking ahead, is there something that you hope to accomplish with the rest of your life?
    6) What do you believe are the best measures of success in life?
    7) What was your proudest moment?
    8) What were the best decisions that you ever made?
    9) What three things do you hope that people remember about you? Why?
    10) What feelings have you left unexpressed in your life?
    11) What are your hopes for the material possessions that you leave to your heirs? Do you have concerns about the inheritance?

When drafting an estate plan, the goal is to attempt to leave nothing unaddressed in the documents such that it could cause an ambiguity or other problem later on. For this reason, drafting the multiple documents of an estate plan can be an occasion to catch things that are missing or wishes that haven’t been expressed yet. In this same way, an ethical will can assist an individual in becoming aware of shortcomings in their relationships, or in the quality of the transmission of ideas and values to their heirs. An ethical will can even be paired with a trust specific to your situation, which is another estate planning vehicle which can assist in passing one’s values to heirs.

Give Us A Call Today!

If you are considering the best method of passing your estate and your values on to your loved ones, please give your legal team at South County Law Firm a call today to schedule a consultation!