fbpx

Creating an Ethical Will: How a “Legacy Letter” Can Help Communicate Love, Lessons, and Values to Those You Leave Behind

As we age, many of us begin to think about the concept of “leaving a legacy.” Too frequently, however, the focus turns to money, as if the only legacy that truly matters when we die is a pile of cash, a portfolio of real estate, or a healthy business. But as this recent Kiplinger article point out, when we consider the things of value that we bequeath to our heirs, it’s important to consider the elements of our legacy that are intangible. This kind of inheritance, often spelled out in a document called an Ethical Will, can impact your family far more than money.

Ethical Will: An Ancient Practice with a Modern Application

The definition of an ethical will – sometimes referred to as a legacy letter – is simple, according to Abby Schneiderman who co-founded a company called Everplans.  It’s a document that you have prepared to “communicate values, experiences and life lessons to your family.”  Wikipedia traces the concept to Old Testament times, and calls an ethical will “a document that passes ethical values from one generation to the next.” The practice, says Wikipedia, has become more widespread in recent years, used as an aid to estate planning, as a way of ensuring appropriate end-of-life care, and as a means toward a spiritual healing tool.

The Kiplinger article spotlights Minneapolis hospice director Barry Baines who says he first came upon the concept of an ethical will in the 1990s. “He and his colleagues were working on a project about existential pain at the end of life. A dying young man told them his nonphysical pain was a 10 out of 10. Even though this patient was a husband and father, ‘he told us, “I feel like I’m going to die and there won’t be any trace that I was ever on the Earth.”’” After Baines suggested that the man work with a chaplain to create an ethical will, the man said “his spiritual suffering had dropped to zero.”

Ethical Wills: Do-It-Yourself or Professional Assistance

Baines since has written a book called Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper, and has co-founded a company that, according to Kiplinger, “offers both guidance for creating ethical wills and trains facilitators — such as financial planners, hospice workers and those who work in faith communities — about how to help people fashion their own legacy letters.” Baines acknowledges that people can write a legacy letter or ethical will by themselves, but sometimes professional help can provide necessary support and encouragement.

“While the task may seem daunting,” says Kiplinger, “most people’s ethical wills aren’t long, perhaps only a page or two.” Professionals suggest that a good starting place can include “personal history, favorite things, academic and professional life, religious and political views, and hopes for the future.” Some people get creative and include a PowerPoint slide show depicting things they love. You can attach favorite recipes, photos, or keepsakes. It’s up to you what you choose to include.

Ethical Wills Can Be Intentional – or Accidental

“Legacy letters can even be accidental,” Kiplinger states. One woman “discovered a two-page typewritten letter from her uncle that was saved by his brother —her father — while clearing out her parents’ house in the early 2000s. Her uncle had written the letter in 1963 on the back of a church bulletin shortly after his only child had died in an airplane crash. Although the family sent hundreds of letters back and forth between Iowa and Michigan, this was the only one saved.”

This cherished letter, which contains simple advice about doing things that matter – taking walks, staying mentally healthy, keeping an open mind, and practicing tolerance – was never intended as a “legacy letter.” But that’s precisely what it turned out to be.

No Life is “Too Ordinary” for an Ethical Will

If you think you have little of value to leave as an ethical or moral legacy for your family, says the Kiplinger article, think again. “For many, leaving an ethical will seems like a grandiose idea, that their lives are too ordinary or unsuccessful for them to have valuable insights to share. But the struggles are where life lessons come from.” One idea is to write your letter when you reach a milestone in life, such as becoming an empty-nester, retiring, or reaching a significant birthday. These life events can prompt times of personal introspection.

Finally, your ethical will can provide benefits for you as well as for your loved ones. “The document can also be one of self-reflection for how you want to live the rest of your life,” the article concludes. The process of putting down on paper can trigger some healthy questions, including “What do I stand for?” and “What matters most?”

18 thoughts on “Creating an Ethical Will: How a “Legacy Letter” Can Help Communicate Love, Lessons, and Values to Those You Leave Behind”

  1. Great beat ! I wish to apprentice even as you amend your site, how could i subscribe for a weblog web site?
    The account aided me a applicable deal. I had been a little bit familiar of this your broadcast provided vibrant clear idea asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  2. I have been surfing online greater than three hours these days, yet I
    never discovered any fascinating article like yours.
    It’s beautiful value sufficient for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers
    made excellent content material as you did, the internet can be much more helpful than ever before.
    asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  3. Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was
    just curious if you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything
    you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any help is very
    much appreciated. 0mniartist asmr

    Reply
  4. You can certainly see your skills in the article you
    write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who are
    not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after
    your heart. 0mniartist asmr

    Reply
  5. Fantastic beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend
    your website, how can i subscribe for a blog website?
    The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of
    this your broadcast provided bright clear concept
    0mniartist asmr

    Reply
  6. My spouse and I stumbled over here different page and thought I might check things out.
    I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to exploring your web page yet again. 0mniartist asmr

    Reply
  7. What you said made a bunch of sense. But, what about this?

    what if you typed a catchier title? I ain’t saying your information isn’t solid, however what
    if you added something that makes people desire more?
    I mean Creating an Ethical Will: How a “Legacy
    Letter” Can Help Communicate Love, Lessons, and Values to Those You Leave Behind – Life Point Law is kinda plain. You should look at Yahoo’s home page and note how
    they write post titles to get viewers interested. You might add a related video or a
    picture or two to grab readers interested about what you’ve got
    to say. Just my opinion, it might bring your posts
    a little livelier. asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  8. In fact no matter if someone doesn’t know afterward its up
    to other viewers that they will help, so here it takes place.
    asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  9. I am regular reader, how are you everybody? This paragraph posted at this website is really nice.
    asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  10. Hi Dear, are you genuinely visiting this web site regularly, if so then you will without doubt obtain good knowledge.

    0mniartist asmr

    Reply
  11. When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment.
    There has to be a means you are able to remove me
    from that service? Many thanks! 0mniartist asmr

    Reply
  12. Usually I don’t learn article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very compelled
    me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me.
    Thank you, very nice article. asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  13. Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few
    of the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.
    asmr 0mniartist

    Reply
  14. You could definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you
    write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    At all times follow your heart. asmr 0mniartist

    Reply

Leave a Comment