Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Gift for Our Children

Do you have a will? Of course you do. Those of us touched by death know the importance of having one. Everyone, no matter how young, should have a will, the legal document that bequeaths assets—home, bank accounts, stock portfolio (such as it is these days) to one's heirs. But what about the intangible assets you’ve acquired over a lifetime, your wisdom, values, even your dreams for the next generation? Shouldn’t these be passed on as well? They can, by means of an ethical will.

I first learned about ethical wills in an article in AARP Magazine. I usually don't read it, but I happened to glance at it one evening a few months after Ralph died. There was a short article about ethical wills. Serendipity. I knew immediately I wanted to write one. I remembered, after my father's death, suddenly thinking of questions I wanted to ask him about his early life, but it was too late. Here was a way to circumvent that for my kids. I began learning more.

An ethical will isn't a legal document. You don't even need a template to compose one. It can be whatever you want: a letter, a short statement of your values, the story of your life, a poem, a scrapbook, a video, a CD--whatever feels comfortable for you. Just be sure, if you're writing, to use acid free paper. My will is a long autobiography, with anecdotes, lessons learned, accomplishments, disappointments, historical events.

What better gift can you give those who outlive you than the essence of who you were?

Here are some resources to get you started:

Baines, Barry, M.D: Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper. Perseus Publishing, 2002.
Baines, Barry, M.D. The Ethical Will Writing Guide Workbook. Josaba Ltd., 2001.
Baines, Barry, M.D. The Ethical Will Resource Kit. Josaba Ltd., 1998.
Binder, Madeline. Your Ethical Will: How to Write Your Legacy in Your Own Words. Purchase and download e-book at
Davies, Susan. After I’m Gone: Thoughts, Wishes, Memories and Secrets to Share with Those I Love. Gotham Books, 2009.
Foltz, Sharon: Passing Your Heritage On. Infinity Publishing, 2007.
Freed, Rachel: Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations. Fairview Press, 2003.
Phifer, Nan: Memoirs of the Soul: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography. Walking Stick Press, 2001.
Reimer, Jack; Stampfer, Nathaniel. So That Your Values Live on: Ethical Wills and How to Prepare Them. Jewish Lights Publishing, 1991.
Spence, Linda. Legacy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Personal History. Swallow Press, 1997.
Turnbull, Susan: The Wealth of Your Life: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Your Ethical Will. Benedict Press. 2005

Websites to Investigate

I hope this will inspire you to get started.



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