What Is An Ethical Will?

An Ethical Will is a statement of the values, beliefs, thoughts, lessons, dreams and/or memories that you would like to leave to those you love and to future generations. An Ethical Will complements the legal estate planning documents by which you pass on your material possessions. It is not a legal document (and must be carefully checked to be sure it does not contradict your legal estate planning documents). In recent years, estate planning professionals have become increasingly aware that it is not enough to provide for transmission of the tangible estate. Each person also has an “intangible estate,” amassed from the experience of a lifetime, which can be of great value to their future heirs.

What Can An Ethical Will Do?

An Ethical Will is an opportunity to state your values and beliefs about the things that have been important in your life, such as religion or spirituality, family, money, work, and environment. It can help to explain the provisions of your legal will (charitable bequests, disposition of assets, distribution of heirlooms). The process of writing an Ethical Will can help you to think about what is meaningful to you and how you would like to be remembered. It can help your family members to understand your wishes and to feel your continuing presence in their lives. It can strengthen the continuity between generations.
Your Ethical Will can be not only an estate planning document but a life planning document, a tool for taking stock and moving on. Like your legal Will, your Ethical Will can be updated at any time.

What Form Can My Ethical Will Take?

Our ancestors had only one way of recording their Ethical Wills – the written document. Today, you also have the option of a video or audio recording. A written document still has important advantages. It does not require equipment to play it on. It does not depend on rapidly changing technology. Putting your thoughts in written form ensures that they will remain readily accessible and available. While an interview transcript preserves your exact words, an edited and organized Ethical Will offers the maximum in readability for future generations. An audio or video recording can complement your written Ethical Will by preserving your unique presence and legacy.

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With offices in Madison, the attorneys at Wilson Law Group assist clients with Estate & Business Planning, Probate & Trust Administration, and Elder Law & Medicaid Planning throughout Southern Wisconsin.