Ethical Wills Part Three: Examples of Ethical Wills
In this ongoing series, we’ve learned about the origins of ethical wills and what you might include in one. Also called “forever letters,” and “legacy letters,” ethical wills aren’t legal documents, so there’s no standard format, desired length, or required content. They can be written at any stage of life and presented or read at your choosing.
Because so many people write an ethical will toward the end of life to say things that they didn’t or couldn’t say directly to their loved ones, these documents are an ideal add-on to the pre-need process. Our next installment will discuss how your organization can include and monetize the preparation of ethical wills in your own pre-planning lineup.
Today, though, let’s look at some excerpts from ethical wills that were written by those nearing end of life.
From Samuel, age 70, who died of lung cancer about a month after completing his ethical will (from CelebrationsOfLife.net):
Dear Barry and Sandy:
A few words to express my feelings and thoughts while time is running out on me.
Some standard values that I have basically lived by throughout my life, are that I have always believed in honesty and advocated truthfulness. I cherish the family with all my heart. I always felt that I gave of myself to everyone in the family. The satisfaction and gratification that I received in return is in the accomplishments of my children. No father could be as proud as your father is of you. Throughout your lifetime so far, you have more than exceeded my greatest expectations. You continue to move forward in a manner that makes me love you more and more. I’m proud to say “that’s my son!”
Through the years, I’ve tried to take care of my family and give them some of the better things in life. I tried and succeeded in being able to give my children a good education. Although I was only a working man, many was the time I worked two jobs for the extra money so that the family could have a little bit more. I had often thought of going into some kind of business, but I didn’t have the expertise in any particular field, or the finances to afford the luxury of risk. However, I’m proud to say that you have shown me through the years, the aggressiveness that I lacked emerged in you.
I hope Alisha and Hannah follow in the footsteps of the family and their traditions. I love you all.
This one is an excerpt from a contemporary ethical will created by a professional advisor regarding the role the writers wish for money to play in the lives of their loved ones. (from PersonalLegacyAdvisors.com):
On the subject of money: We want our money to help you and not hurt you. It will help if it grants you access, flexibility and opportunity; it will hurt if it provides an easy exit from challenges and dilemmas that you need to face in order to grow into strong, successful adults. The most important matter is not how you got your money or how you are going to spend it. It is how you are going spend your lives and what kind of people you are going to be. It is about finding your passions and pursuing them. It is striving to be excellent in whatever you do. It is also about your moral authority. We hope that you will always look outside yourselves and consider the perspective of others, that you will not get so wrapped up in your own lives that you miss the people that are around you that are in need. We hope you will be aware of what is going on in your community and how events are affecting people there and all over the world. Try to take in the stranger – both physically and in your heart.
These excerpts are from a letter written by Bettina Brickell, who was 29 years old when she died. Her letter was read at her memorial service (from Ethical Wills, 2nd. Ed. by Barry Baines, MD):
Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
As I contemplated this memorial service, I felt great gratitude in my heart that each of you would be here to say goodbye to me.
I have profoundly experienced that love is all that matters. Like many people, I occasionally got caught up in my pettiness and separation, thinking I knew the right answer. I judged others and I have judged myself even more harshly. But I have learned that we carry within ourselves the abundant wisdom and love to heal our weary heart and judgmental mind.
As I lay dying, I think of all of you, each special in your own way, that I have loved and shared this life with. I reluctantly give up walking on this beautiful planet, where every step is a prayer. The glistening sun on the trees, the sound of a brook as it makes its way down the mountain, the serenity and beauty of a gentle snowfall, sitting at the rim of a Utah canyon and catching a glimpse of eternity — these are the things I’ve loved.
Beliefs and life lessons
Lastly, here’s a legacy letter from an 84-year-old mother and grandmother with early-onset Alzheimer’s (from LegacyLetter.org):
To My Family,
I am writing my Legacy Letter to you today, Feb 14 2013 in my 84th year. It is Valentine’s Day. It would seem fitting to write to you today to let you know how important you are in my life and how much I love you. As I have grown older, and new generations have joined our family, the 17 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren, I continue to cherish what we have even more than ever. You all have given me such joy in my life.
It is my hope that this letter will be a record of some of my values, life experiences and lessons; I can pass on to you, your children and grandchildren. I hope God and perhaps a few of my insights can guide you during your lives, and help make your path as blessed as mine.
Values, Spiritual Beliefs and Life Lessons: The glue that holds our family together is the love of God. There is an unshakable belief that prayer is primary in our lives. This belief has been passed down from my grandparents, my parents, and from me to you.
Last thoughts and blessings: I am so grateful for my life and for the times we shared together individually and as a family. You make me so proud. Your loving relationships with one another, how you do things together and how you really appreciate each other. I hope you all keep your Christian faith in the center of your marriage and the center of your family. You know what you’re doing when you keep God in your life. Please remember that I was always there when you needed me, and I will always protect you. May God bless all of you and bless those who follow with love and peace.
P.S. Three of my favorite recipes are below. Enjoy!