Ethical Will Examples: Extended Collection Written by people at different stages of life

Ethical Will of Michael (50’s)

Michael writes about creating his ethical will:

I missed my calling. Perhaps others “shoulda been a contenda”. I “shoulda been a teacha”. There are several things I “shoulda” taught. One of them is what I call “life lessons”; not because my kids (or any one else’s) need them but because I have gotten virtually every one of them wrong, and I desperately want to insure that others (my kids in particular) avoid the hurt I suffered from having done so.

In any event my kids were reluctant recipients of this accumulated wisdom. (“Oh Pop!!!!”) But as they matured they learned to abide my “little idiosyncrasies” –see “rule” 10 in the Will . I had collected most of these sayings into my Ethical Will, but I was reluctant to do anything with it when, on September 18, 1998, my 29 year old son, David died. Writing about and to David helped the grieving process, and I determined to post the Will on the site that his friends had put together in his honor. He doesn’t need it now–he’s in heaven. But I just know that he’s monitoring the site. Whenever he reads it, I know it brings a smile to his face and an “Oh Pop” to his lips.

By the way, I wrote the Will not only for David but for Lisa, my absolutely wonderful daughter who I love with all my heart. (The hardest thing about David’s death was to convince Lisa that I would have grieved just as heavily if she had died.) Ever the good daughter, she gave her approval to my posting the Will on and disseminating it more broadly.

On Rosh Hashanah, our Rabbi talked about Ethical Wills, documents embodying the “life lessons, that you want to pass on to your kids. I had written such a document but had never gotten around to passing it on to David before he died. It finally occurred to me that David is not only in Heaven, but is monitoring this web site. So here, it is David, and as you read this, please remember item 9.

ETHICAL WILL of Michael A. Greenspan

Having disposed of my property through duly executed documents, I now turn to the harder job of leaving to my children, Lisa and David, a set of principles that they should consider in living their own lives and in helping to shape the lives of their children.

1. Do the right thing — as often as you can.
2. Only worry about those things that you can do something about.
3. Try as hard as you can, and, having done so, don’t look back if things don’t work out.
4. Work hard, but stop before you mindlessly begin work to ask whether you have found the most efficient thing to work hard at.
5. You are not the center of the universe. If it takes religion to make you realize that, then embrace religion.
6. Happiness is NOT what feels good at the moment. You also have to consider the long-term consequences of your actions.
7. Be positive; try to find the best in a bad situation.
8. Be interested in a lot of things. People who are interested are interesting.
9. Show everyone that you love that you love him or her, and be sure to tell him or her as well.
10. Divide the world into two groups: those that are trying to hurt you and those that aren’t. Fight the first group as hard as you can and cut the second group as much slack as you can.
11. In making decisions, tend toward those that maximize your options.
12. Procrastinating over a decision until there is no decision to be made is itself a decision.
13. The best trait, in a friend, co-worker, or yourself, is dependability. The second is loyalty.
14. If you find a good, true friend, hold on to him or her as hard as you can.
15. Ask not what people do, but how well they do it.
16. Be fruitful and multiply.
17. And three that I have heard before but really like:
18. (a) When things are going REALLY wrong, remember: that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, (b) Love like you’ve never been hurt before, and (c) Dance like no one’s watching.

/s/ Michael A. Greenspan [This is undated because it is ongoing.]