Ethical Wills and Personal Histories: Imparting Life’s Lessons

Just as a Last Will and Testament allows you to leave behind your valuables, an Ethical Will allows you to leave behind your values.  An ethical Will is a way to document and share (in writing or via an audio or video recording) your values, your spiritual beliefs, and your “life’s lessons.”  An Ethical Will is a personal statement you make about yourself — your hopes, your dreams, your joys, your regrets.  It may contain professions of love and forgiveness for loved ones in your life.

The idea of an Ethical Will is thousands of years old — dating back to Biblical Times:

“Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing.”
– Ecclesiastes 7:11.  NIV.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
– John 15:11. NIV.

The popularity of Ethical Wills has increased over the years for many reasons. As baby boomers age, they’re spending time thinking about what it is they want to leave behind. With the economy sagging, it’s not always money.  Also, more and more people, even those who are non-religious, are exploring their spirituality, and almost always come to the realization that there is much more to life than our brief earthly existence.
If you are interested in creating an Ethical Will, the Farr Law Firm can help you.

Here is a list of questions to answer in making your Ethical Will:

  • Have you ever had a life-altering experience? How did this event affect you?
  • What values and beliefs would like to pass on to the next generation?
  • What spiritual or religious beliefs are important to you?
  • What advice or thoughts would you offer other people about living their lives?
  • What has made your life worth living?
  • Do you have regrets?
  • What are the things in your life that you are most proud of?
  • Is there anything in your life that you would have done differently?
  • What hopes or dreams do you have for your loved ones?
  • Are there any other thoughts that you wish to share?

Here are some articles on Ethical Wills:
Ethical Wills Make for Lasting Gifts of Life Lessons and They’re Growing in Popularity
Bequeathing Smart Strategies

Here are some free resources to help you get started:

Personal Histories
Similar, but usually longer and more comprehensive than an Ethical Will, is a Personal History.  It could be a memoir, a family biography, an oral history, a or just a loving letter.  Like an Ethical Will, a Personal History can take the form of a printed work such as a book, or a video, or an audio recording, or it could even be a Scrapbook, a Photo Book or Photo Collage, or even a Family Website . Whatever form of remembrance you choose, a Personal History can have a profound impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. You can create a Personal History on your own or with the help of a a Personal Historian whose livelihood and passion is to help individuals, families, organizations, and communities preserve their valuable histories, memories, and life stories.  An Ethical Will is something that should be included within a Personal History, but a personal history also deals with the following questions:

  • Your life history.
  • Your romantic history.
  • What was life like for you growing up?
  • What jobs did you hold throughout life?

For more information on Personal Historians, or to locate one in your area, please visit the Association of Personal Historians.