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What Is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

These days, ethical wills are nonbinding documents that are increasingly seen as important legacy-building ingredients, say experts, because they can convey a person's deep inner values and beliefs, even helping soothe ruffled feathers when dispensing family assets.

If you want to pass down more than just your assets, you may want to consider an "ethical will" in your estate planning to-dos.

Upon hearing the term "ethical will" your first thought might be that it describes a specific ethical way to draft your legal will. Perhaps it could be a way to divide your property ethically between different people. Perhaps it could refer to giving a certain percentage of your estate to charities or religious institutions.

An ethical will, however, is actually an ancient Jewish tradition. It refers to a separate document that passes on wisdom and life lessons to future generations.

As The New York Timesreports, in an article titled "The Ethical Will, an Ancient Concept, Is Revamped for the Tech Age," the ancient idea of an ethical will is getting new life.

Increasingly people are using technology to pass wisdom onto future generations. They are creating videos and slideshows, for example.

Ethical wills give the dying an opportunity to teach younger people about what they have learned during their lives. They also give loved ones something that can be cherished for many years.

Not everyone will want to make an ethical will. Those who are interested, however, might want to think about how technology can assist them in the process.

An estate plan does not have to be pile of legal documents. It can also include other things, such as an ethical will.

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