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Why Write an Ethical Will?

An ethical will is a document written to communicate values and wisdom, history, stories, and love from one generation to another. It preserves who you are and what matters most to you. It is a way for you to be remembered and to make a real difference. It outlines "your values, blessings, life's lessons, and hopes and dreams for the future," according to Dr. Barry Baines, author of the book, Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper. This is not a legal document and it is usually shared with family and community while the author is still alive.

An ethical will may be one of the most cherished and meaningful gifts you can leave to your family and community. Here are some of the reasons to write an ethical will.

  • It helps us identify what we value most and what we stand for.
  • We learn a lot about ourselves in the process of writing an ethical will.
  • It helps us come to terms with our mortality by creating something of meaning that will live on after we are gone.
  • It provides a sense of completion in our lives.
  • If we do not tell our stories and the stories from where we come, no one else will and they will be lost forever.
  • We all want to be remembered, and we all will leave something behind

Writing Your Ethical Will

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself as you sit down to write your ethical will:

  1. Are there any values that are particularly important to you?
  2. Are there any beliefs that are particularly important to you?
  3. Is there a spiritual component to your life that is dear to you?
  4. Do you have any hopes or dreams for the generations that will follow you?
  5. Are there any particular lessons you learned during your life?
  6. Do you want to forgive anyone?
  7. Do you want anyone’s forgiveness?
  8. Do you love particular things about yourself?
  9. Is there a particular event that helped shape the person you became?
  10. Do you have any regrets?

I believe it both a privilege and a responsibility to record, communicate, and preserve your family and community histories, document the legacies you received, and the experiences you have lived that make you who you are. Preserving your wisdom and your love establishes a link in the chain of generations, passes on a legacy for those of tomorrow's world.