When you’re organizing your end-of-life affairs, preparing a will is likely high on your list of priorities. What you may not realize is that there are different kinds of wills.
A last will and testament is probably what you think of first; it’s a legal directive about how your assets should be handled upon your death. An ethical will, on the other hand, isn’t a legal document at all. It’s a way for you to convey thoughts, life lessons learned, the intentions behind your will and wishes for your loved ones.
If you think you’d like to prepare an ethical will, here are some tips from RememberingALife.com, an online resource from the experts at the National Funeral Directors Association, to guide you in the process:
Decide on your format. An ethical will can be written, but it can also be delivered via audio or video. There’s not a right or wrong approach; it depends on how you’re most comfortable communicating. One consideration is your comfort level with audio or video editing. Unless you’re confident you can say what you want, the way you want in one pass, you’ll need some basic editing skills to ensure your message is conveyed exactly as you wish.
Determine your purpose. Ethical wills can serve many different purposes. You may use it to convey your love and appreciation to your loved ones or to mend fences you weren’t able to while alive. Your ethical will can also be a way to share your values, what you’ve learned in life and your dreams for those you hold dear. It may even be your chance to share the secret ingredient in a beloved family recipe.
Gather your thoughts. Drafting an ethical will can be an emotional process, so organizing what you’d like to say ahead of time can help keep you focused. Make notes about the points you’d like to share, adding details or embellishments as you wish. However, take care to avoid saying anything in your ethical will that contradicts your legal will.
Start writing. Even if you ultimately plan to record your ethical will, writing out what you plan to say can be a good idea. Remember this isn’t a formal dissertation or award-winning novel, so convey your thoughts freely. Clarity is important, but don’t be afraid to let your personality, humor and other characteristics shine through.
Edit yourself. Preparing an ethical will is no small undertaking, and chances are, over time, you’ll want to change or add to your original draft. Take your time and revisit your draft as often as you need to capture everything you want to say.
Find more resources to support you and your family in your end-of-life planning at RememberingALife.com.