Ohio residents may communicate a lot of their values in the way that they set up their estate plan. For example, they may leave a portion of their assets to a charity or set up a trust that only makes distributions when beneficiaries graduate from college. While a lot can be said with a standard will, people who want to send a message with their estate plan may also want to create an ethical will.
An ethical will is an informal estate planning document that is becoming more and more popular. Though ethical wills are not legally binding, they often take more time to write than financial wills. Also referred to as a legacy letter or a love letter to family, an ethical will is used to explain a testator’s values to the people who mean the most to them. The testators may explain how they want loved ones to use their inheritance, or they may simply write down some of the most important lessons that they have learned in their lifetime.
There is no set format for an ethical will, no word limit and no limitation on the subject matters that are expressed. People should simply think about what their core values are and write down some of the most important thoughts and ideas that they would like to express to their family members. Writing an ethical will can be a difficult process, but it can provide a person’s family members with something that is meaningful and comforting.
An estate planning attorney may not be able to advise a person on what to write in an ethical will, but an attorney can help with the format. An attorney may also help clients to make sure that they have created all of the other key estate planning documents like a durable power of attorney.