Ethical Wills - Are They Legal Documents?
Whether you call it an ethical will, a spiritual will or a spiritual ethical will, these documents are quickly becoming more popular than the traditional legal documents that have a tendency to be sterile. However, I recently came across a blog discussion about the legality of ethical wills, so I thought it would be a good time to clear up the confusion.
What Is an Ethical Will?
There are numerous variations of ethical wills, just like there are variations of last wills and trusts. The most basic type of ethical will is the ethical letter. These letters are usually designed to deliver intimate information to a specific person or group of people. They generally do not contain a list of inheritance or promises of items from the estate. At the other end of the spectrum is the full spiritual ethical will and trust. These documents combine the ethical transmission with guidance about how the estate is to be handled and disbursed.
Is Your Ethical Will Legal?
The legality of your ethical will is going to depend on several factors. First of all, ethical wills in all formats are legal to write, but some are not considered legally binding documents. This is because some variations of ethical wills, usually the ethical letters, do not contain all of the information needed to execute an estate and because of this, they are not viewed as a legal document, even if they promise a portion of the estate to the recipient of the letter. On the other hand, ethical wills that contain all of the required elements of a last will and trust can be considered a legally binding document.
Making Your Ethical Will a Legally Binding Document
When the court system evaluates the legality of your ethical will they are going to look for signs that you intended the ethical will to be your last will and trust. To make it easy for the courts to determine that your ethical will is indeed your last will and trust is to state that that is your intention at the beginning of the document. A simple state such as, "this is my last will and trust..."
Another way to ensure that your ethical will is viewed as a legally binding document is to have an attorney help you complete the financial and legal segments of your will and then simply supplement the legal stuff with your ethical letters and materials.