Tag Archives: Ethical will

How to Avoid Landmines When Producing Video Ethical Wills.

A reader recently asked, “Two people have consented to [an ethical will] but I think video taping them would be more personal for the receiving family. Can you see some possible landmines?” This was my reply.

There are several things to be cautious of when undertaking a video ethical will.

  • First ensure that your clients prefer a video rather than an audio or printed ethical will.  Some people suffering from a terminal illness don’t want their families to have a lasting image of their decline.
  • Will you have your clients speak directly to the camera or to you off screen? While speaking directly to camera can be effective for an  intimate presentation like this,  it can be intimidating for someone not used to facing a camera.
  • Preparing an ethical will requires a good deal of reflection. Your clients will need time – perhaps a week or more to fashion responses to the questions posed by an ethical will. I would suggest that, if at all possible, have them work on writing down their thoughts before actually videotaping their responses.
  • Avoid having your clients rehearse their responses. This sounds like a contradiction of my previous point but it’s not. You want people to have given sufficient thought to their ethical will but you don’t want them to become fretful about getting it “right”. This will end up producing results that are stiff and not natural.
  • Be aware that you may unlock some painful memories. How comfortable are you with sadness, tears, and anguish? Do you have a counselor you can recommend to your client should things become more than you can handle?
  • Above all don’t rush the process. It takes time.

If you’re interested in learning more about ethical wills, check out my previous articles:

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Image by Mark Chadwick

What Do Sidney Poitier and Ethical Wills Have In Common?

I was talking to a friend the other day and she mentioned Sidney Poitier’s latest book, Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter. In it the aging actor writes a series of inspirational letters to his newly born great-granddaughter. Drawing on his own experience, he reflects on some of life’s profound themes – love, faith, death, personal strengths, and failures. This isn’t so much biography as it is an elder’s advice for a great-granddaughter Poitier knows he will never see into adulthood. You can read a review here.

Poitier’s book is really an elaborate, extended ethical will. Unlike property wills, an ethical will is a “spiritual” letter to a loved one in which a person writes about their values and beliefs, life lessons learned, hopes, what they’re grateful for, faith, and forgiveness.

We all owe it to those we love to take the time to compose our ethical will. None of us know how much time we have on earth. Accidents, illness, and violent acts can cut our lives short. How do you want to be remembered?

Here are some other ethical will websites you might find helpful.




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Image created by Dan Curtis from a photo by Kevin Walsh