The ethical will has a name that is misleading and can confuse people. An ethical will is in fact not a will at all. An ethical will is, rather, a personal statement that you make to loved ones that is passed to your loved ones after you have died.

An ethical will is not a legal document and therefore can take any format that you wish. It can be a video, a group of letters, or it can be more than one single thing. Generally, however, an ethical will is a letter.

You should create on ethical will per person and try not to group ethical will together. The reason is because the message can get lost when there are too many people. Also you want to make the message personal.

The idea of the ethical will is to say something that you could not say in your lifetime. Maybe you did not have enough time, maybe you were too shy, or maybe the right moment never came around. Whatever the reason, many people find that writing an ethical will helps them with unresolved issues.

The ethical will can go to family members as well as to close friends.

The ethical will does not need to be notarized, witnessed, or even seen by anyone else until your death. You make the ethical will part of your estate and your executor will hold on to the contents until your death. You leave your executor instruction on what to do with your ethical will. You can have the executor read the contents out loud when your will is read, you can have the executor mail the letter once you die, or you can have the executor read the contents of the letter to the named person privately. Afterwards the ethical will can be destroyed or it can be given to the person.

The ethical will is not the same as an explanation letter. An explanation letter is also not a legal document, but is used to help explain why you are making property distributions in your will (Last Will and Testament) the way that you are making them. The explanation letter can help fulfill your wishes because a court may look to the explanation letter to determine if you were of a sound mind at the time you created the will and whether your wishes were expressed in the will.

The ethical will is generally not the place to make long explanations as to why you have made property distributions the way you have except to the extent that it sheds light on any personal matters between you and the person that the letter is addressed to.

Some of the common things that people include in an ethical will include personal history, family medical history, history of relatives, and their names. An ethical will can also include information on some of the knowledge and/or life lessons that you have acquired during your lifetime. Most of all, an ethical will is used to help the person coupe with your death. This is especially true if the letter is addressed to minor children or someone that you are particularly close with.

The ethical will has a unique place and although it is not required by a court of law, it can be the most important piece of property that you leave behind in your estate.



This blog entry was written by Sanket Mistry.

Sanket Mistry, J.D., M.I.A.      Sanket Mistry is the founder and CEO of Peerless Legal and blogs regularly. He has written numerous books including, "25 Estate Planning Forms," "8 Living Trust Forms," "Simple Will Creator," "Give Through a Will & Living Trust," and "Guidance On Creating Your Own Will & Power of Attorney," and the bestselling books in the Legal Self-Help Guide series, "Will, Trust, & Power of Attorney Creator and Estate Records Organizer" and "Estate Planning in Plain-English." He earned his JD from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University and is a member of the New York State Bar. He has worked, and volunteered, at a number of nonprofits, government agencies, and for-profit corporations. He also holds a BA in philosophy from Emory University and a MIA from Columbia University. He is an avid traveler and tennis player.