The ethical will, a document with no legal significance but can be supplemented to a regular will as part of the estate planning package, is meant to share personal lessons and advice with loved ones in addition to passing along physical parts of the estate. While the concept of an ethical will has dwindled in recent decades, the concept has seen resurgence in the technological age.
What is an Ethical Will?
Originally an oral tradition, ethical wills date back as far as 3,500 years. These wills have been used for millennia to pass on life lessons and ethics to the younger generation. Beginning around 1000 A.D., ethical wills began being written down and some still exist to this day.
In the modern age, ethical wills are considered nonbinding documents that are added to a person’s estate plan that passes down life lessons and advice to heirs and assigns. They are seen as increasingly important estate planning tools because they can convey the estate owner’s closely held values and beliefs. Ethical wills can also help avoid inter-family conflicts that may arise after that person is gone.
Using Technology with Ethical Wills
Many people are now utilizing technology to add a more personal touch to an ethical will. Some are creating ethical will in Microsoft PowerPoint that includes pictures, music, humor, and quotes to emphasize her thoughts. It adds an extra dimension to the younger generations viewing the slideshow that would not be there in a typical, written ethical will. Other people are using similar formats in the forms of videos, DVDs, digital scrapbooks, iPhones, and Facebook pages to create their ethical will for their loved ones.
Benefits of Technology and Ethical Wills
An ethical will allows the estate owner to lay out life lessons and moral philosophies. They can be used to explain family history, the hard work that went into building the estate, and an explanation of how the owner hopes the estate will be used. In order to make these points even more personal, the use of video ethical wills is increasing rapidly.
A video ethical will uses a videographer to film the estate owner and edits down the footage between ten and fifteen minutes. Many people have found that seeing their loved one convey these messages creates a stronger bond and understanding of what is being said. Video wills are also so effective because those watching can hear their loved one’s voice, their tone, and see their posture.
What Not to Do in an Ethical Will
An important thing to remember when creating an ethical will is that it is not the proper time to scold or blame someone by reaching out from the grave. It should instead be a heartfelt message to your loved ones, conveying the most important lessons and advice that you feel like you can give. Ethical wills are meant to help improve family communication and lift people’s spirits.
In addition, a more practical aspect of ethical wills to remember is that an ethical will should not conflict with your wishes in your standard will or other estate planning documents. Other than that, there’s no limit to what can go into an ethical will.