Thursday, February 26, 2009

What’s an Ethical Will?

According to a Columbus Dispatch article, a hospice physician in Minnesota is promoting a new document referred to as an ethical will.  What is an ethical will?  The article describes an ethical will as a document where the writer describes “forces that shaped their lives, underscore love or admit regret, and pass along life lessons, anecdotes and other treasures immune to a faltering economy.”  One person included poems, favorite recipes, photos, and an account of a trip to South Dakota.  I am not sure that the article adequately stresses that an ethical will should not be considered a legal document.  While I think it would be more effective to teach life lessons, impart wisdom, and express regret to loved ones during your lifetime, some people apparently are willing to wait until postmortem to express themselves.  As an estate planning practitioner, I am concerned people may take the ethical will a step farther and attempt to insert traditional will components in the document, causing several potential problems.  Perhaps the document needs a new name, like scrapbooking.

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