Ethical Will Examples Written by people at different stages of life

Ethical Will of Don, Age 58

Don Schmitz wrote this ethical will for his children and grandchildren.
September 2, 1999
Dear Jeff, Andrew and Ted and Grandchildren:


It is my hope in writing my ethical will that I will be able to record for posterity some of my values and visions for the future. I hope this will help each of you as you plan and carry out your life. In my studies of leaving a legacy, I was reminded how important it is for parents and grandparents to share and record what is important to them. For posterity’s sake, I have attempted to record some of my experiences and what I believe in, some history of what I have done with my life, and lessons I have learned along the way.


I want you, my family, to know how important you all are in my life and how much I love you. A better life for you than what we had was always our goal. Sometimes, as a parent, we tried to protect you from falls and hurts. These hurts occurred throughout life; from the time you first started to walk, or ride around the block on your big wheels, to bicycles and finally cars. At the same time, your mother and I wanted you to be independent and stand up for yourself when obstacles would get in your way. There was never anything in our lives that equaled having the three of you for our sons (yes not even the grandchildren, though they sure are nice too!) We’ve always wanted the best for each of you and helped you as much as we possibly could. How proud I have always been to have you for my sons!

A. Some of my Experiences as a Child

My Trip to see Mary Reuvers

One of the experiences I remember as a little boy was when I went to see Mary Reuvers. I believe I was about 5 years old. This particular day my sister Carol and brother Bill were gone to school. I was lonesome for friendship and always was longing for adventure. This is the first experience I recall doing something all by myself and oh how proud I was that mom let me do it.

I remember it like yesterday, walking along kicking the stones while walking down the hill. Lassie, our dog, kept following me wanting to come along but I had to send him home a couple times.

I remember walking up the driveway and being greeted by Mary. It was the way she greeted me that I will never forget. She was so excited to see me and she treated me special. She had this big smile and open arms. She also had a strange accent; different from anyone I had ever heard, from the old country my dad used to say. I remember how her house even had a different smell than ours. Later I learned it was the smell of a woodburning stove.

Mary sat down and talked with me and showed me pictures of her family. It was as if time stood still. She really enjoyed talking to me. I remember how especially proud she was of her daughter who was studying to be a Notre Dame Sister. Mary took a picture of me that day and I felt so special that she took a picture of me all by myself. She later gave that picture to my parents. Today, I have that very picture on a counter in our living room.

Taffy and the Fair

Another experience I recall was taking my calf, Taffy, to the Rice County Fair. Taffy was about six months old when we started her training. We later learned that at six months, she was already too old to be trained effectively to take to the fair.

Taffy had a lot of spunk, but Dad always referred to it as “stubbornness”. Taffy never learned to walk around with me using a halter but instead she dragged me around but I persisted.

My brother Bill also took a calf to the fair. Her name was Tuffy. She was a much more mild-mannered calf and easier to train. It was a real big thing that we were given this opportunity because it took a lot of time away from the chores and yet for some reason Dad allowed it? As I look back on this, it’s still a real surprise.

When the fair arrived, Bill’s calf got a blue ribbon but mine got a red. I was so disappointed but excited at the same time because I got invited to take Taffy back to another show the next day. I remember Dad talking to me that night and that he would even come and watch me in the ring!

The next day was a disaster! As soon as I got Taffy into the show ring she got scared and ran away. I felt like such a failure especially with my dad being there.

We were never allowed to take calves to the fair again. As hard as this experience was I learned a lot about life. I learned how difficult life can sometimes be and that you don’t always get everything you want in life even if you work hard. Somehow I have continued despite my short-term failures.


When I was about eight years old I remember playing marbles at school. Mom had made me a bag out of scraps with a drawstring at the top, I was so proud of it.

Someone had determined that “Cat’s Eyes and Steelies” were the most valuable marbles. Bill and I discovered that Steelies were nothing more than ball bearings. One day we took apart some old machinery and found a couple really big steelys to use as shooters. I remember how excited I was going to school and how long school was that morning until recess. That day, I won all kinds of marbles from Jim Walsh and Tom Merrill, two of my classmates. When I came home with all the marbles Bill and mom couldn’t believe it. Oh how proud I was of myself.

B. Things That I Value

As I stated earlier, I value my three sons a great deal but there is someone who even comes before the three of you and that is your mother, Mary. Mary and I met in Mankato when she was nineteen and I was twenty. We were wild about each other from the very start. I remember how cute she was and what a gorgeous smile she had. We shared some wonderful times and some rocky times over the years. Marriage is not an easy thing but persistence kept us together over all those years.

Another thing that helped keep us together was prayer. Prayer can be extremely powerful.

But I can’t forget either how important going to others for help was for us. We would have never survived without counseling. In marriage you both don’t grow at the same time. Sometimes you need to wait for your partner to grow through a stage and other times he or she will need to wait for you, but if you can have the patience, you will be a better person for it.

The following are some of the highlights I am most proud of in my life:
-Getting my college degree
-Having a strong faith
-Having Mary and Leo Marso as my in-laws.
-Having the three of you early in our marriage
-Teaching school for twenty years
-Being chosen “Teacher of the Year in 1984”
-Getting my Masters and Specialist Degree in Education
-Owning our three homes in Cottage Grove
-Being your basketball coach
-Reading books to all of you
-Teaching you our faith
-Being friendly to all we come in contact with
-Involvement in the community; Chambers, Teaching Organizations and the Youth Service Bureau
-St. Rita’s Church (Co-Chair of the building expansion committee for our church)
-Receiving the “Service to Youth Award” from the Youth Service Bureau in 1999
-My ten years with Jeane Thorne and the part I played in the growing the business
-Buying and rebuilding our current home at 285 Summit in St. Paul.
-Our three grandchildren
-Learning to play the guitar
-Having built a strong financial background for the future
-Working on another degree in Human Development from St. Mary’s

C. Things I Believe in

Strong families and the need to stay together: As I’ve grown older I continue to value the family more and more. I enjoyed my study of the Genealogy of our family. It’s my hope that someone will continue my work and maintain our family information in the years to come.

The power of education: How important it was for your Mom and me to help you get college degrees. We’ve always been extremely proud of your educational accomplishments. I believe that any dollars spent on education comes back fourfold in your lifetime.

Parents should read to their children: I remember how special it was for me to be able to hold you on my lap and read to you. As a former first grade teacher, teaching you to read came so natural. The three of you have all grown to be better readers and writers than I am and I know that it’s rooted in our times spent together when you were very young.

Follow your heart: People must follow their heart in what they want out of life. Money doesn’t always come hand in hand with what your heart tells you, but in the end it will benefit you the most.

Helping the poor: We have a responsibility to help others who are less fortunate.

Taking time to smell the roses: One of the keys to raising a wonderful family was taking family vacations. We saved and saved our money and financially it was always difficult, but the experiences we shared were never forgotten. I especially remember our vacation to Washington DC, our trip to California, our eventful car ride through Sweden when Jeff was getting married, our many trips to Disney and our meals at the cabin.

Ongoing education throughout life: We can never allow ourselves to stop growing. The world is so big and there is so much to see and do.

Respecting our land: I have been so lucky to be raised in this beautiful country. Respect of the land and its beauty is one of our responsibilities. I love flowers and plants and golf courses for their beauty. This is one area where man has been able to improve the beauty of the earth.

Raising children: I believe children should be raised in a strong faith. I have found over the years that a strong faith is something that will stand the test of time. As you grow, you may choose to change your faith, but having a strong faith as a child cannot be replicated.

A strong healthy body: I believe in exercise and eating carefully and caring for the only body we have. It’s also important to get annual examinations and getting proper rest.

A life of your own: I also believe in talking time for yourself. My trips to Canada for fishing always left me more thankful for the life I had and the people in it. A good movie or book can provide a real welcome break as well. Daily walks and meditation are but one more way of appreciating all that you have.

D. Lessons I have learned

Everyone must live their own life in their own way, as their values would have them live. Any variation of this is just a short-term diversion. Telling others how to live their life is not in anyone’s job description.

People do change. I’ve seen many wonderful changes made by people who are willing to continue to grow.

Finding a career you are proud of is very difficult but worth the search. You may need to try many different careers during your life. Don’t be afraid of change, it’s one of the things that can help keep young at heart.

I compare us sometimes to a computer. Every once in a while we need to get rid of the old computer and start new. No matter how much you tweak the old one, it is still old. One of the things I loved about my life was the fact that I had many successful jobs that I enjoyed.

Have your children when you are young. Children are very exhausting and can best be handled when you are young.

Keep listening. You learn nothing while you are talking.

When raising your children, don’t worry about all the little stuff. It’s not what people say that matters; it’s what they do. Love your children, let them know you love them unconditionally and everything else will work out with the grace of God.
Be thankful for all the gifts of life. Life isn’t fair and each of you has different gifts. God knew what he was doing and who are you to question him?

E. Things that had a big impact on my life

Mary Marso, your grandmother, was a very special lady who helped me greatly to believe in myself and to believe in the value of prayer. She loved me unconditionally. I hope you can say that about us.

Sr. Michelle was my American History teacher at Bethlehem Academy. She always believed in me and encouraged me to make the most of myself.

Being chosen Teacher of the year in Cottage Grove was a wonderful thing for me. It meant so much to me I felt compelled to find new ways to reward others. There are far more awards that need to be given. I encourage you to make it your business to give lots of awards in life, both formal and informal.

The death of Mary’s parents at such a young age had a tremendous influence on Mary and a large influence on me as well. They were such good people who always gave time to anyone in need. They are good examples for you to follow. Your grandmother expected a lot of her children and her children worked hard to live up to her expectations. What does that say for you and your children?

Being the father of three wonderful boys was one of the most special things in my life. I miss all of you even now when I write this. Your mother and I spent so much time enjoying all of you and we still do. One regret is not having all of you closer, geographically, so we could drop by to see you (and you to us). I always wished I could have helped you more and just “be” with you. I especially enjoyed our fishing trips together.

F. Wishes for the future

You will each find a mate that will love you, be the mother of your children and grow with you throughout your life.

I hope that my new career working with grandparents will be successful. I’ve spent a great deal of time preparing for it and believe it has great value.

I want you to have the chance to have children of your own and to experience the love they can bring into your life. I also hope you get to know your grandchildren and share with them your legacy and heritage. Family is so important!

Respect your time alone. I believe you need your own time and space. Be supportive of yourself and your own ideas. Take time to nurture them and develop them to the fullest. Always remember that your parents are here and we will always be here in mind or in body to support you every step of the way. Once a parent, you are always a parent.

I hope we will be able to live into our 80’s. I want to be healthy and be able to travel to visit you wherever you may live. I also hope we will be able to continue to help you financially and what we give you and your children will be respected and used to develop more of your talent to the fullest.

Last I pray that Mary and I will continue to love each other and bring happiness to each other.

G. Conclusion

Thank you for your love and being my children and Grandchildren and your support of me as your father grand Father through the years.

I love you very much and unconditionally will continue to love you as long as I live no matter what my change in our future.

You have been a great source of joy and strength. Thank you for being my heirs.

Dad and Grandfather