What is an Ethical Will?

An “ethical will” is a document written, not to    give away your material possessions to others, but to reflect on your life and to pass on your values.  It can be used to share memories, tell others how much they mean to you, disclose regrets, or ask for or offer the forgiveness you may find difficult doing face-to-face.

Just as each person in the world is unique, so will be his or her ethical will. Some simply write a personal letter to loved ones.  Others consider it a work in progress, adding details to a notebook as time goes on.  Several good workbooks can help you with writing an ethical will as a gift for your family.  I recommend The Wealth of Your Life by Susan B. Turnbull[1] and Ethical Wills by Barry Baines.[2]

Ethical wills usually put most emphasis on a person’s values, so they are different from the kind of memory workbook that is included in my book.  Our life review workbook includes some values questions, but it also covers personal history and life experiences you want your family to be able to remember.


[1] Turnbull, Susan B (2005).  The Wealth of Your Life: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Your Ethical Will.  Wenham, MA: Benedict Press.

[2] Baines, B. K. (2006).  Ethical Wills. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo.

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