FamilyBetter Living

Write an Ethical Will

Claire Bush
Category Family

An ethical will, sometimes called an ethical legacy, is a document written to preserve and pass along key moral and life lessons. An ethical will is not a legally binding document and is not intended as a way to distribute property or money. However, these documents are becoming increasingly popular as baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond. Following is a rundown on how to prepare an ethical will.


  • An ethical will can be hand written or prepared on a computer. Most ethical wills are relatively short (a few pages).
  • One popular format is to write a first person essay describing what have been key lessons in life. Some people write about childhood experiences or careers that taught valuable character traits such as honesty, integrity, thrift, loyalty or perseverance.
  • Another technique is to write an ethical will in letter form, addressing children or a spouse. In this letter, the individual describes how each person has been loved and valued by them.
  • The tone of an ethical will is always first person, positive, and loving, and should contain no surprises that could disturb family members or loved ones. This is not the appropriate place to resurrect family feuds, air political or religious opinions, or assign blame. Grievances are better handled in person or with a third party, not put into writing
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  • Keep a copy with other important papers. Some people choose to share their ethical wills with loved ones right after they've written them. In this way the document becomes an affirmation - and a celebration - of what has been important in his or her life.

Write an Ethical Will

About The Author: An Arizona freelance writer for the past decade, Claire is a regular contributor to the Arizona Republic's business, career builder and community sections and is also the author of a statewide restaurant guide, "Dining in Arizona - 101 Great Places to Eat" Claire has co-authored several cookbooks and is now a working chef and menu designer in Sun City, AZ.

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September 22, 20080 found this helpful

Very interesting post. I never would have thought of this. We take care of financial matters - but what of the emotional ones? This could well be the best thing you could leave - more so than money.


Thank you.

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September 23, 20080 found this helpful

What a wonderful idea! I'd like to add that it would be a great thing to post in the newspaper in place of an obituary and in the 'In Memory' pamphlets at the service!

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September 24, 20080 found this helpful

Best ThriftyFun tip I've ever seen. I'll get one started and review it a little more every Sunday.

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Better Living FamilySeptember 22, 2008
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