How Is an Ethical Will Different from a Basic Will?

Los Angeles estate planning attorney

You likely know what a Last Will and Testament is and have probably included one in your estate plan. Your Will allows you to decide how your estate assets are distributed after you are gone. Many people, however, want to pass down more than just assets. For that, you may wish to consider creating an Ethical Will. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a Los Angeles estate planning attorney from Collins Law Firm explains how an ethical Will is different from a basic Will.

Are Ethical Wills New?

No. Ethical Wills are hardly a new concept. In fact, they have been around for centuries. Ethical Wills were first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible over 3000 years ago and can also be found in the Christian Bible as well as religious texts from other cultures and religions. Originally, Ethical Wills were passed down orally from one generation to the next; however, they eventually evolved into written documents. Unlike a Last Will and Testament though, an Ethical Will is not a legal document.

What Is an Ethical Will?

An Ethical Will is a written document that includes a record of your family, important family and life stories, philosophies, legacies, and goals. An Ethical Will allows you to pass down things such as your values, achievements, blessings, and wisdom as well as your hopes and dreams for your family members and loved ones.

What Should I Include in an Ethical Will?

Remember, an Ethical Will is not a legal document so you can craft one to your needs and write it in a way that resonates with you. There are, however, some tips that might help you get started with organizing and writing your Ethical Will, such as:

  • Take notes. Before you sit down and attempt to write out your Ethical Will, spend a few weeks jotting down notes. Your notes might include lessons you think are important, beliefs you hold dear, or hopes and dreams you have for your family and loved ones. All these things can be difficult to think of when pressured to write, which is why keeping a notebook handy helps you gather them up ahead of time.

  • Ask family members to contribute. Many people include notable family stories in an Ethical Will. Maybe your family immigrated from another country, or your grandparents have an unforgettable love story. Your Ethical Will is an excellent place to record these stories to ensure that they are not lost to future generations.

  • Consider what you want to pass down. Because an Ethical Will is not a legal document, you are not confined to including specific things in the document. When preparing to write your Ethical Will, take the time to consider what is most important to pass down to future generations. Things such as faith, philosophies, lessons learned, and aspirations for loved ones are all popular things to include in an Ethical Will; however, you can include anything you want.

  • Ask forgiveness. Historically, an Ethical Will was often used to ask loved ones for forgiveness. If you are unable to ask forgiveness for something while you are alive, consider doing so in your Ethical Will.

  • Express your wishes. Most of us have hopes and dreams for our children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones. Although you may express those wishes to them while you are alive, it never hurts to put them in writing so they can be remembered when you are gone. This option can be especially meaningful if you have very young family members, or even future family members, that are unable to benefit from your wisdom and guidance while you are alive.

Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney

For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions related to estate planning, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney near you. Contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.

Caprice Collins
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