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New Jersey Estate Planning & Administration: What is an “Ethical Will?”

By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.

Dating back to biblical times, an “Ethical Will” (also known as a “legacy letter”) is an informal, spiritual document designed to communicate wisdom, values, blessings, life lessons, experiences, and stories to loved ones. The Ethical Will may be written by hand, or may be an audio or visual recording. Most importantly, the Ethical Will could be a means to share information after you are gone, and a way to leave something meaningful behind for future generations.

If the testator chooses to draft an Ethical Will, the document may contain some of the following items:

  • The purpose for the drafting of the Ethical Will;
  • The most-important things learned from a family member such as a grandparent;
  • Information as to traditions experienced while growing up;
  • Religious or spiritual beliefs;
  • Fondest memories;
  • Favorite stories about your mother, father, or grandparent;
  • Favorite places, artists, food, books, sports teams, and movies;
  • Hobbies and activities;
  • Favorite quotes or sayings;
  • Information as to the most-influential people or events;
  • Biggest fears;
  • Mistakes to avoid;
  • Items for which the testator or testatrix offers forgiveness;
  • Items for which the testator or testatrix seeks forgiveness; and
  • Hopes for the future.

As opposed to the essential estate planning documents – the Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and Combined Advance Directive for Health Care (living will) – which an attorney should always prepare, an Ethical Will is prepared by the testator himself and left where it may be conveniently located once the testator has passed away. It is important to note that an Ethical Will is of no legal significance, and is in no way a substitute for a Last Will and Testament.

Because estate and trust planning, administration, and litigation requires specialized knowledge, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney if you are either a fiduciary or beneficiary of an estate or trust. Specifically, you may wish to contact an attorney if you have questions regarding your estate planning, the probate process, administration of an estate or trust, fiduciary obligations, preparation of a formal or informal accounting, refunding bonds and releases, and the procedures for filing a formal accounting or exceptions thereto. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.

Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq. /  Timothy J. Little, P.C.  –  2016  –  All Rights Reserved

Timothy J. Little, P.C. is a full-service law firm with offices in Woodbridge and Chesterfield, New Jersey. Timothy J. Little, P.C. represents individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey including Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County (Hazlet, Aberdeen, Matawan, Keyport, Cliffwood Beach, Middletown, Freehold), Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County.

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New Jersey Estate Planning & Administration: What is an “Ethical Will?”

New Jersey Estate Planning & Administration: What is an “Ethical Will?”

By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.

Dating back to biblical times, an “Ethical Will” (also known as a “legacy letter”) is an informal, spiritual document designed to communicate wisdom, values, blessings, life lessons, experiences, and stories to loved ones. The Ethical Will may be written by hand, or may be an audio or visual recording. Most importantly, the Ethical Will could be a means to share information after you are gone, and a way to leave something meaningful behind for future generations.

If the testator chooses to draft an Ethical Will, the document may contain some of the following items:

  • The purpose for the drafting of the Ethical Will;
  • The most-important things learned from a family member such as a grandparent;
  • Information as to traditions experienced while growing up;
  • Religious or spiritual beliefs;
  • Fondest memories;
  • Favorite stories about your mother, father, or grandparent;
  • Favorite places, artists, food, books, sports teams, and movies;
  • Hobbies and activities;
  • Favorite quotes or sayings;
  • Information as to the most-influential people or events;
  • Biggest fears;
  • Mistakes to avoid;
  • Items for which the testator or testatrix offers forgiveness;
  • Items for which the testator or testatrix seeks forgiveness; and
  • Hopes for the future.

As opposed to the essential estate planning documents – the Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and Combined Advance Directive for Health Care (living will) – which an attorney should always prepare, an Ethical Will is prepared by the testator himself and left where it may be conveniently located once the testator has passed away. It is important to note that an Ethical Will is of no legal significance, and is in no way a substitute for a Last Will and Testament.

Because estate and trust planning, administration, and litigation requires specialized knowledge, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney if you are either a fiduciary or beneficiary of an estate or trust. Specifically, you may wish to contact an attorney if you have questions regarding your estate planning, the probate process, administration of an estate or trust, fiduciary obligations, preparation of a formal or informal accounting, refunding bonds and releases, and the procedures for filing a formal accounting or exceptions thereto. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.

Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq. /  Timothy J. Little, P.C.  –  2016  –  All Rights Reserved

Timothy J. Little, P.C. is a full-service law firm with offices in Woodbridge and Chesterfield, New Jersey. Timothy J. Little, P.C. represents individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey including Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County (Hazlet, Aberdeen, Matawan, Keyport, Cliffwood Beach, Middletown, Freehold), Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County.

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