What Is an Ethical Will?

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2020 | estate planning

As you navigate the estate planning process, the term ethical will may come up. An ethical will is different from a traditional will. A traditional will is a tool that is used to pass on your property and assets. An ethical will is optional and is a document you can use to express things like personal values, wishes for future generations, memories, guiding principles, and religious values.  

Ethical wills have been a long-standing tradition going back many years. The practice of writing an ethical will even has origins in the Bible. Ethical wills are not considered legal documents, so you have the ability to make an ethical will on your own without needing to have it prepared by an attorney. Though you can create an ethical will on your own, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney for help preparing your other estate plans.

For questions regarding any type of will or estate plan, an experienced California estate planning attorney can help you. The estate planning attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver have many years of experience handling all kinds of estate planning matters. Contact us today to set up a meeting with one of our attorneys to learn more about how you can move forward with your estate plans.

Why Should You Create an Ethical Will?

There are many reasons you may want to create an ethical will. When you create an ethical will, you have the ability to communicate your own life story to share with your family. You can share the treasured memories of your life, along with your thoughts and values. While a traditional will is an important tool, an ethical will can be just as important as it keeps your memory alive and helps to guide your descendants after you have passed. Your ethical will is something meaningful that you can leave behind for future generations to learn about you and your values.

Another reason to create an ethical will is for your own benefit. By taking the time to sit down and write about what you value the most in your life, and reflecting on personal experiences throughout your life, you gain the benefit of learning more about yourself and what is important to you. Creating an ethical will is an exercise in self-reflection.

You can also use an ethical will as an opportunity to distribute some of your property that does not have financial value–but does have significant sentimental value. For example, you may want certain photographs to go to your child, or special family recipes to be passed on to children and grandchildren. There may be clothing items that you want to be given to specific relatives. An ethical will is useful for this purpose.

An ethical will can also contain an explanation of your decisions for the distribution of your assets in your traditional will. In some cases, you may want to explain your decisions in further detail to help family members understand why you made the choices you did. You can also take this as an opportunity to clarify the decisions you made in your tradition will if you believe there may be confusion regarding your intentions.

When Should You Create Your Ethical Will?

Once you have decided to make an ethical will, you may be wondering when it would be the best time to create the will. Even if you are young, the best time to begin is now. You do not have to complete the will at this time, but you may want to begin recording memories and thoughts for you to include in your ethical will once you are ready to complete it. This way, you will not forget things that are important to you that you may have forgotten if you started your will many years down the road.

Do You Need an Attorney to Create an Ethical Will?

As ethical wills are not legally binding, you will not need to have your ethical will prepared by an attorney. However, if you are considering creating an ethical will, you are likely considering all of your estate planning options. It is a good idea to speak with an attorney with experience preparing estate plans before you move forward with making your own.

While you should be able to create your own ethical will, it is a good idea to hire an attorney to help you with more formal estate plans, such as preparing a traditional will or creating a trust. To discuss your estate planning goals, and to get started making your plans, contact the law office of Galanti and Copenhaver, Inc. today.