On November 4, 2016

Ethical Wills: What, Why & How

Ethical Wills: What, Why & How

As opposed to a traditional will that bequeaths assets to loved ones, an ethical will is a personal statement – not a legal document – that sets forth values or shares stories and experiences. Also commonly referred to as legacy letters, ethical wills can be invaluable for surviving loved ones following a death because these documents can:

  • Provide explanations of why certain decisions were made or why specific actions were taken in the will (and/or as part of the overall estate plan)
  • Share blessings, love and support with heirs and subsequent generations
  • Serve as a mechanism for telling stories, sharing family histories or establishing legacies
  • Provide loved ones with a sense of comfort and closure following a death.

Topics to Cover in Ethical Wills

Like wills (and other estate planning devices), an ethical will can cover a number of different topics, and it can be tailored to serve your needs, wishes and goals. Some of the specifics that can (but do not necessarily have to be) covered in an ethical will include:

  • Lessons, advice and anecdotes you’ve learned, want to share or have experienced
  • Personal beliefs and statements of faith
  • Family stories, histories and legacies
  • Apology statements
  • Explanations about why certain assets were given to certain heirs.

Essentially, ethical wills can share deeper insights about you, your choices, your beliefs, and your legacy.

Ethical Wills: How to Get Started

The personal nature of ethical wills means that there is no cookie-cutter method of devising these documents. This can open up the possibility of developing ethical wills in various ways and in various formats. Some ideas for getting this process started include:

  • Writing an email or letter to loved ones
  • Filming a video
  • Making an audio recording yourself reading your ethical will.

Ethical Wills: More Helpful Information

  • Preserving your ethical will – Once you’ve developed an ethical will, safekeeping it will be essential to ensuring that it’s available to share with loved ones in the future. Some tips for preserving your ethical will include to keep a copy:
    • With your estate plan
    • In a safe deposit box
    • With your attorney
    • In a digital format that is readily accessible at any point in the future.
  • Updating your ethical will – As with your traditional will and estate plan, reviewing and updating your ethical will is important to making sure that it is up to date (and that, at any point, it applies to your situation). While you may simply want to revisit your ethical will every so often (like every one to two years), it’s also wise to review and, if needed, revise an ethical will when major life events, such as the following, occur:
    • Divorce or marriage
    • The birth of a new child
    • A death in the family.

Get Help Completing the Rest of Your Estate Plan: Contact a Denver Estate Planning Attorney at JR Phillips & Associates, PC

For experienced help developing, revising or administering an estate plan, contact a trusted Denver estate planning attorney at JR Phillips & Associates, PC. Our skilled lawyers provide a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to our clients’ estate planning needs, and they are proud to help each of our clients and their families find the best solutions for them (based on their circumstances, needs and goals).

To discuss your estate planning options during an initial consultation, call our firm at (303) 741-2400 or email us using the contact form on this page. This meeting could be the first step in protecting yourself, your loved ones and your legacy for years to come.

From our offices in Denver, we serve clients throughout the southwest and southeast Metro Area, including (but not limited to) people in Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Castle Rock, Parker, Aurora, Greenwood Village and Englewood.

Categories: Blogs, Estate Planning, Inheritances