Gift of Love – An Ethical Will

What is the best gift of love that you can give your family? Time, memories, opportunities, special possessions, wealth? The list could be endless.

There is a gift that can wrap up all these gifts into one package.

An ethical will is a way to share your love with family and close friends. Think of an ethical will as a heartfelt letter describing what truly matters most in your life. An ethical will passes on life lessons, values, joys, prayers, hopes and dreams for present and future generations.

An ethical will is not a legal document. It is an opportunity to share what motivates you or what you want your legacy to be.

It can be as simple as sharing your history. What is your favorite place in the world, favorite book, movie, sport or hobbies? You can expand that to include what was an important life lesson you learned, what you are most proud of, what were the challenges you overcame and how.

“To my beloved son, I bequeath… an open hand to those in need.”

“To my dearest daughter, I leave… my respect for learning.”

Many ethical wills are written, but they can also be a video. You may be comfortable telling your story as if you were having a cup of coffee with a friend.

The movie The Ultimate Gift is a type of ethical will. The grandfather in the film shares the values he wants his grandchild to develop. This storyline sends the grandson on a journey to accomplish what is asked of him. The motivating factor is to receive his inheritance. Through this experience, he learns the values of:

• Hard work
• True friendship
• Generosity
• Gratitude

You may want to convey similar values, although your ethical will does not need to be so elaborate.

Many resources are available to help you with this effort. Books such as:

• Money, Love and Legacy: Conversations That Matter Between Generations, by Helga Hayse
• Ethical Wills & Putting Your Values on Paper, by Barry K. Baines

Some websites have templates you may use to help you begin thinking about what you would like to include in your ethical will. or or

Dr. Barry Baines, a hospice medical director, has seen how “An ethical will can mean more than any material possession you might bequeath.”


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Gift of Love – An Estate Plan

Tips For Settling Estates


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