How to create an ethical will

Published 10:36am Friday, June 29, 2012

Dear Savvy Senior,
What can you tell me about ethical wills? My wife and I had to make some minor adjustments to our legal will last month, and our attorney suggested we create an ethical will as a way to explain our intentions and express our thoughts and feelings. We are interested in doing this but could use some help. What can you tell me?
- Planning Ahead
Dear Planning,
An ethical will can be a valuable complement to your legal will, as well as a wonderful gift to your family or other loved ones. Here’s what you should know along with some tips to help you make one.
Ethical wills
Unlike a last will and testament, which tells your loved ones (and the legal world) what you want them to have, an ethical will (which is not a legal document) tells them what you want them to know.
With an ethical will, you can share with your loved ones your feelings, wishes, regrets, gratitude and advice, as well as explain the elements in your legal will, give information about the money and possessions you’re passing on, and anything else you want to communicate.
Usually no more than a few pages, the process of writing an ethical will can actually be quite satisfying. But be careful that you don’t contradict any aspects of your legal will or estate plan.
And, if you’re having trouble with the writing, there are professional ethical will writers you can hire to help you, or you can speak your wishes into a voice recorder or have someone video record you.
Where to start
To craft an ethical will, start by jotting down some notes about what’s really important to you and what you want your loved ones to know. Take your time, and remember that you’re not trying to write for the Pulitzer Prize. The letter is a gift of yourself, written for those you love.

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