Ethical Wills / Legacy Letters
Your Legacy of Values
A workbook for sharing your values and love.
Barry K. Baines, MD
Vice President, Celebrations of Life
Live your life as you wish to be remembered.®
Everyone wants to be remembered and
we all leave something behind.
Ethical Wills / Legacy Letters
The Voice of the Heart
Published by Celebrations of Life Services Inc. 219 Main Street SE, Suite 500.Minneapolis, MN 55414
651.600.6412 or 651-600-6413. www.celebrationsoflife.net
© 2012-2016 Celebrations of Life Services Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the publisher. To do so is unethical!
Table of Contents
An Introduction to Ethical Wills / Legacy Letters 1
Ethical Will Examples and Warm-Up Exercises
Open-Ended Exercise 1
Structured Writing Exercises 2-6 14
Outline Exercises 7
Creating Your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter Draft
An Introduction to Ethical Wills / Legacy Letters
What is an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter?
Most people are familiar with the concept of a “last will and testament.” It is the means of distributing our accumulated assets to our loved ones and favorite charities, and to effect other important decisions at the time of our death. But…have you ever considered writing an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter?
In a metaphorical way, an Ethical Will (also referred to as a Legacy Letter) is a way to “bequeath your values” in the same way that a will of inheritance provides for bequeathing your valuables. Unlike wills of inheritance which divide things, an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter is a way to share: your values, faith, beliefs, hopes for the future, life lessons, love, gratitude, and forgiveness with your family, friends and community. Writing an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter places your life in a broader context of continuity—a link from past to future generations.
History of Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters
Although many cultures have the tradition of naming children in honor of deceased and living relatives, many of us have no written history to connect us to our namesakes.
Have you ever discovered a letter from a relative whom you never knew? It’s incredible how the smallest bits and pieces of information about their lives rekindle and strengthen our feelings of connection to your ancestors. An Ethical Will/Legacy Letter can provide a storehouse of information for present and future generations.
While many people are not familiar with the term Ethical Will/Legacy Letter, its tradition dates back over 3000 years. First described in Genesis: 49, there are many biblical references to this tradition in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.
Why Create an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter?
Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters typically address personal values and life principles, hopes for future generations, asking forgiveness and forgiving others.
Here are some examples of the many reasons why creating an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter is important. Some of them may resonate with you or they may help you think of your own reasons.
• When you create an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter, you learn a lot about yourself as you journey through this self-reflective process. It is a way to affirm the past and live more purposefully today and in the future.
• It allows for putting your personal “signature” on what universal values mean to you (e.g., love, truth).
• It opens the door to forgiving others and being forgiven, which heals relationships.
• It can be a spiritual experience that provides a sense of completion in our lives.
• If we don’t preserve and share our values, no one else will, and future generations will be deprived of this precious perspective.
When to Create an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter
Ethical Wills were originally associated with someone’s final days. With the revival of this tradition, Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters are now connected to:
• life transitions and turning points
• challenging events or life situations
• child’s special milestone or when they become an adult
• birth of a grandchild or great grandchild
• loss or illness
• national disasters
• any time the spirit moves us!
How to Write an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter
There are three basic approaches to writing your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter:
1. Start with a blank sheet of paper or open-ended exercise.
2. Start with structured writing exercises.
3. Start with an outline structure with phrases to choose from and edit.
Specific writing exercises are described in the pages that follow. They will provide the pathway to facilitate the process of creating your first draft.
Getting Past Our Reasons for Not Creating Our Ethical Will/Legacy Letter
It’s easy to come up with numerous reasons why we have avoided creating and sharing our Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. A few of the most common ones are shared here to give you either the carrot or the stick to get yourself motivated or to help you overcome a ‘writer’s block’ that may be impeding your journey. Whatever the barriers, we believe that you will find this workbook and guided writing sessions provide the easiest, most engaging and most meaningful way to help you complete your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. Do any of these barriers resonate with you?
A. Perception: Perhaps you feel your life was pretty ordinary and your reflections will be less than interesting to your loved ones or dear friends.
Alternative view: Consider that just the opposite is true. Each one of us has lived a life, short or long, that is uniquely ours. When our values are shared with those whose lives are most closely connected to ours, they are very meaningful and enduring.
B. Perception: Maybe you feel you had more struggles than successes in your life and you can’t imagine how someone would look to you for guidance.
Alternative view: Everyone who exists within the continuum of life has gained valuable lessons along their journey – from both good and difficult experiences. Our greatest struggles often contribute the most to our personal growth.
C. Perception: Perhaps you feel that if you share your values, beliefs, and hopes, it will come across as lofty or preachy and no one will want to read it.
Alternative view: That is a reasonable concern. However, if you share what’s in your heart, it is more likely that you will not be perceived as arrogant or preaching. What they will find is that your love and perspectives are delivered with good intentions and honesty, even if they don’t share your beliefs.
D. Perception: Maybe you’re not comfortable expressing your love and gratitude with your family and dear friends.
Alternative view: Recognize that you can express your love in many ways. For some, love comes from the comfort of knowing their parents/guardian cared enough to share their values, hopes and life lessons with them. For others, having a tangible affirmation of why they were loved and what unique value they brought to their family can bring tremendous healing even in a family where relationships may have been difficult, dysfunctional or estranged.
E. Perception: Perhaps you feel you are too busy living your life to take time to write your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter.
Alternative view: Consider that none of us knows exactly when our time is up. Even one short paragraph, one expression of love, one golden nugget of wisdom has the power to heal, to connect and to provide a positive impact in the lives of our loved ones and our future generations.
F. Perception: I’m concerned that I’m not a good enough writer to complete this
Alternative view: By utilizing the guided exercises in this workbook and writing from the ‘voice of the heart’, you will be able to complete a draft of your ethical will. If you would like extra help, Celebrations of Life’s team of professional writers and editors can help synthesize your writings into a finished document.
A Guided Writing Experience
This workbook is designed to guide you through the process of crafting your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. The exercises will prompt you to share examples of how you came to be who you are through your unique life experience. As you write, reflect, and share what you’ve written in each exercise, you will begin to see and hear what is most relevant. And with a bit of editing, you’ll be able to distill the most important messages to share with your loved ones and dear friends.
Most of us want to be remembered favorably, so as you write your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter, try to write in a positive tone rather than placing blame, scolding or trying to script someone else’s life. Follow the advice of Daniel Taylor, a noted author on creating spiritual legacies. He recommends that you “write with grace while you are telling the truth – rise above the bitterness and blaming – share instead how you have grown.”
Your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter is your opportunity to articulate your perspective of what really matters in life, so that your next generations can refer to this navigational compass in the context of their lives.
For some, this task is accomplished in a few inspiring paragraphs. For others it may take several pages. It is not surprising that after completing an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter, you may become interested in additional legacy writing by sharing your Legacy of Wisdom (Life Reflection Stories) or your Legacy of Generosity (Making a Difference Plan). What is most important is that your words are the voice of the heart, and they will resonate long after you are gone.
We hope this information will provide the spark you need to begin your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. It may well be one of the most valuable gifts you give to your family and community.
We wish you a meaningful and reflective writing journey.
Your Celebrations of Life Team
Ethical Will/Legacy Letter Examples & Warm-Up Exercises
You may follow the workbook in the order of the writing exercise or you may choose to select those exercises that are most interesting or easiest to write about first. Write as much or as little as you are comfortable doing and add to the exercises as needed. You may find the workbook is a great place to jot down ideas, notes or reminders from your memory as you prepare to create a first draft. Feel free to use this writing tool to help guide and inspire your writing, rather than restrict your creative energy.
Ethical Will/Legacy Letter Examples
Here are several examples of modern Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters that have been collected over the past fifteen years. You can use these examples, or refer to any other examples of your own choosing. This exercise is designed to provide you with a first-hand look at what an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter looks like, and what it contains.
Read through each example and reflect on what they were about and what stayed with you after reading them.
Sample 1: Ethical Will/Legacy Letter – Ray Quinn
12/29/1938 – ___________
What I have learned so far on the ‘dash.’
Dear Michelle, Dan, and my dearest Stephanie,
First of all, I want you to know how important all of you are in my life journey and how much I love you. It was seldom that my full-blooded Irish father said the words, “I love you,” but we never doubted it for an instant. I am sorry that you, Michelle (Mik) and Dan (Daniel Patrick Joseph Paul) never knew your Irish Grandpa, but your good humor and hard work carry on his spirit, and the gleam in his eye is there in each of yours. I have tried hard to be a conduit to you from him. Of course, your French Grandpa Turgeon knew you, Michelle. I wish he had known you better, Dan, since you were only two when he died. I am so glad that he permitted this Irishman to marry his only daughter.
Education has been very important to me throughout my life so far. My mother and dad nurtured that love of learning. They taught me that it is not so much degrees or certificates as it is about being better prepared to serve people’s needs more efficiently and effectively. I can see that you have both learned that well. Michelle, as I told you before, you are a great mother to Emily and her brother yet to be born (7 aka VII). I’m sure you absorbed much of that mother love and dedication from your mom, who did such a good job as mother to you and Dan. The magic and love that you and Bob have for each other is certainly a huge factor in your parenting. Bob has always been just like a big brother to Dan, and I am so proud that he is part of our family.
Travel has always been a top priority with me. Seeing new places and the amazing variety of God’s creations has been a fun ride. I like the challenges of imagining what to do from camping and biking across Canada to visiting most of the western states. I usually came up with the “great ideas,” and you, Stephanie—the practical one—helped us know how to do it. I hope you continue to remember the good times we had and still do. Sometimes it is just a great trip downtown on the light rail or a quick canoe ride, swim, and picnic at Cedar Lake. Those “mini vacations” always replenish my spirit, and my hope is that they will continue to do that for you, too. Sometimes I have found that the short, simple travels are easy and unencumbered.
I am still working hard, and probably will for the rest of my ‘dash,’ on being able and willing to ask for help. You are always there, Stephanie, and often anticipate most every need of the three of us. In recent times, we have learned the power of the prayer of Jabez, and God has indeed blessed us, enlarged our territory (and our family). I am so glad that God protects and supports us daily.
One last thought from me through the words of Father Mychal Judge, who died in the 9/11 debacle: “Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.” My hope for you is that you would join me in asking God to bless your days as you live the rest of your ‘dash’ in the spirit of Mychal’s prayer.
I love all of you with all my heart and soul. I pray that all of us continue to have health, happiness, and prosperity and generously contribute to the lives and welfare of those we meet.
Dad(dy) and Lover
What stayed/resonated with you?
Click here to use the online fillable form for this warmup exercise
Sample 2: Ethical Will/Legacy Letter – Bettina Brickell
Bettina was 29 years old when she died. This letter to her family and friends was read at her memorial service.
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 good-bye to me. Many of you have shared your warmth, kindness and love with me during these last months. I want to say thank you and good-bye and share with you the lessons I’ve learned through my dying.
I have profoundly experienced that love is all that matters. Like many people, I occasionally got caught 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.
During the time of my illness, I have loved more deeply. My heart feels as if it has exploded. I do not carry anger. I feel we are all doing the best we can. Judging others closes the heart and when one is dying, that is a waste of precious sharing. Life is how we stand in relationship to both ourselves and to others. Loving and helping each other are all that is important.
We are in the fall season. I feel privileged to die as the leaves fall from the trees. There is a naturalness to the cycle of life and death and for whatever reason, it is my time to die, even though I am young. It is OK. It is right and natural. Life is not about how long we live, but about how we live, and I have had a good life. I accept my dying as part of the wondrous process of life.
My sadness is in leaving you. I’ll miss the deep comfort and love of gently waking up in (my husband) Peter’s arms, giving up our dreams of future years together. I’ll miss the sunny days of fishing with my dad, of sharing with my mom her love of life and cosmopolitan savoir-faire. I’ll miss giggling with my sister Maria over life’s impasses. How appreciative I feel when I think of my brother Michael’s faith and encouragement.
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 have loved.
Please do not think I have lost a battle with cancer, for I have won the challenge of life. I have shared unconditional love. I have opened to the mystery of Spirit and feel that divinity is all around us every day and provides us with a path on which our spirit may take flight.
Chief Crazy Horse said upon his final battle, “It is a good day to die because all the things of my life are present.” That is how I feel as I think of the abundance, adventure, opportunity and love in my life.
When you think of me, know that my spirit has taken flight and that I loved you.
With my love, Bettina
What stayed/resonated with you?
Click here to use the online fillable form for this warmup exercise
Sample 3: Ethical Will/Legacy Letter – Kim
It was interesting, I have to tell you, talking with other people who had no children to leave a legacy for—how few of them felt they were “entitled” to write an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. In some cases, there was a bit of embarrassment, the old who-would-want-to-read-my-thoughts but from a decidedly disenfranchised place of being either single or childless. I felt it a bit, but then charged ahead. I’ve decided I’m going to mail it out with my holiday letter this year, as much because I’m not sending a lot of presents as I am because, hell, I could be dead next year, and I’d like to see what my loved ones think and how/if they respond.
TO MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY,
Since I’ve never married or had children, I don’t have a conventional family system, but I have definitely created my family of choice. I feel incredibly lucky to include in that my immediate blood family, but I also add into that number the amazing group of people whom I have been lucky enough to have love me. I often tell people that YOU are my greatest accomplishment. I have surrounded myself and bonded with the most exceptional people I have ever met. Being part of a clan has always been vitally important to me, as many of you who knew me in my cult years know. I have not always made the wisest choices, but I believe that with your help I have milked my mistakes for whatever vast or miniscule lesson I could learn, and then took it to heart. Through all this, I have tried to give you what I value most: honesty, trust and unguarded love.
I think the need to learn has always driven me. I have tried to outgrow myself constantly. My spiritual beliefs might be hard for some to understand, but I believe that we are part of something incomprehensibly bigger than ourselves, and that we are responsible to strive to understand it enough that we are able to give something back to this life we were blessed with.
I have tried to treat each of you as though you have the potential to outgrow any obstacles or challenges you were given along the way, and if I have pushed you a little too hard because of that faith in you, I am sorry. The older I get, the more precious every moment is to me, and I want everyone I care about to live as large as they can.
Nature is alive to me, and I trust that it is absolutely complete in all the metaphoric instructions we need to know to live in our own divinity–God, hiding in plain sight, surrounding us every day.
I wish for all of you, with your busy lives, to remember that all it takes is a good long walk in the woods several times a week to remember to listen to the smartest parts of yourself, the parts that will keep you in respectful relationship to your body, your life and the Universe.
Without kids, I’ve had to be more intentional in where I put my devotion and focus. My work with hospice has been incredibly precious to me, as it has given me access to some of the language and experiences of letting go that we don’t get growing up in this culture. I am grateful for what I’ve learned, and I hope that I have made a difference in the lives of the grieving people and co-workers that I’ve been honored to work with. Having to remember to get myself out of the way constantly to serve others has helped me overcome my natural tendency toward self-absorption. This is partly what I mean by outgrowing myself. I’ve had the opportunity to be several completely different people in this lifetime as I’ve shed each set of beliefs and limitations, and I recommend it to everyone.
At 52, I have to say something to anyone who’s younger than me. It’s amazing to get older. Not necessarily fun, but amazing. Each age has its gifts and its limitations and I hope that every young, middle aged and older person in my life gets the right kind of support to go for the gusto in their age-appropriate tasks. For example, I wish I’d finished my education when I was in my 20’s and didn’t have anything better to do. I did finish college in my late 40’s but it wasn’t as easy as it would have been if I’d done it earlier. Your energy changes appropriately in each age. There’s a lot more of it when you’re younger, but it gets more sophisticated and interesting when you’re older if you use it for the right things. I say this because I’ve had a hard time letting go of the past, generally. Today I’d tell anyone, don’t miss a minute of your life by trying to hold on to something whose time is over.
My greatest life-transforming lessons have mostly come from my hardest times—working with a biochemical disorder, leaving the cult I was in while dealing with cervical cancer, the break-up of my serious relationships with lovers and friends. I think that’s true of everyone—that you dissolve when you are in deep grief and you live in the possibility of deepening your values and focus. For me, as I said above, they were lessons in letting go of the past, who I was and what I wanted, releasing my frantic need to never let go of anything. This must be one of my greatest lessons to learn in this lifetime, since I seem to be given opportunities to work with it almost daily.
Whatever difficulty presents itself to you is a gift, either something begging to be seen and understood, as Rilke said of our dragons, or a chance to let go of your personal agenda and align more with What Is. Same goes for whatever joy presents itself. Try to find your own way to trust God or the universe so you can get a bigger picture than your own small agenda. Once you do, you realize how lonely you were.
Take care of your health. You’re riding around in this incredible vehicle with operating systems you can’t even begin to grasp, and it’s not only respectful to take care of it, it’s critical if you’re going to fully enjoy the ride. No matter what state your health is in, be grateful. There are lessons in illness, and the alternative to ANY state of health is death, so don’t be complaining unless you’re ready to get out of the vehicle.
I don’t believe we are meant to understand ourselves, grow, grieve, change, or fully enjoy life without other sets of eyes that see us through love. If you can’t let other people in, really in, to influence you and love you when you’re at your worst, or save you sometimes, you are going to have a tiny little life and probably be very angry on your deathbed that you missed something and you don’t know what it is. I pray for all of you that that never happens.
I’ve tried to be a good friend to all of you. I’ve tried to bring something into the world that may not have my name on it when I leave, but that brought comfort, encouragement and spark into people’s lives. I meant what I said at the beginning of this letter: you are my greatest accomplishment and I’m so grateful that you have loved me.
What stayed/resonated with you?
Click here to use the online fillable form for this warmup exercise
Exercise 1: I Remember
In this open-ended exercise, spend 10-15 minutes writing about whatever you remember. It is not directive other than having you recall whatever comes to mind. When this exercise is completed, it will help you identify areas for further reflection and writing.
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 1
Structured Writing Exercises
The next five exercises utilize the second writing technique—the ‘structured writing’ approach. This approach allows you to gain confidence in your writing, collect and organize your ideas, and establish momentum.
Exercise 2: Linking the Generations
Write down the name of a deceased relative who you may have been named after, or who you may have heard stories or “legends” about when you were growing up.
Imagine that you could go back in time for several hours and meet that person and talk to them. What questions about them and their lives would you want to ask them about? What information about them would you like to have to carry with you when you return to the present?
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 2
Imagine it is 75 years into the future. When future generations want to know more about you and your life, these questions that you would pose to your ancestors, are similar to the questions future generations would want to know about you!
Exercise 3: What I Learned
Write a few sentences in response to each phrase.
Something I learned from my grandparents…
Something I learned from my parents…
Something I learned from my spouse/children/siblings…
Something I learned from experience…
Something I am grateful for…
My most meaningful holiday/experience/tradition…
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 3
Exercise 4: Successes, Life Lessons, Regrets
Write one or two responses to each phrase.
Successes and/or examples of overcoming life challenges I would like to share…
Life lessons I want to pass on…
Regrets I would like to address…
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 4
Exercise 5: What I Will Miss
Write about the people, experiences, places and things that you will miss if they were no longer a part of your life, and more importantly, why?
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 5
Exercise 6: The Tribute
You are attending a life celebration. Familiar people are filing in and sitting down. The eulogy/tribute is about to be given. You realize that the eulogy/tribute is about you. What do you hope will be said about you and your life; how do you wish to be remembered?
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 6
Exercise 7: Ethical Will/Legacy Letter Outline Topics
This exercise introduces an easy way to engage in the process of creating an Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. It is the most structured of the three approaches, providing you with a helpful framework to quickly and efficiently complete a rough draft of your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. The exercise consists of a complete outline of common themes frequently found in Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters along with a list of phrases and sentences that originated in previously written Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters.
Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters rarely contain items from every category listed, so concentrate on those topics that have the most meaning to you or add your own as you wish. Here is a preview of the topics detailed within this section. Choose to write about as many as you wish.
• Opening Thoughts
• The Importance of Family and Other Relationships
• Respect for Life
• Learning from Mistakes
• Being Honest, Truthful and Sincere
• Giving and Receiving
• Doing Good
• The Importance of Education/Learning/Knowledge
• The Importance of Humor
• Lessons About Life
• Reflections About Life
• Hopes for the Future
• Concluding Thoughts
You may find that the workbook phrases don’t completely capture your exact thinking or they may not speak in your voice. This is where you can edit and customize the phrasing to make it your own. Additionally, the phrases will likely be the trigger for more of your personal ideas that you can write in the spaces provided on the following pages.
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 7
• To my unborn child: I am writing this in eager anticipation of your birth. I know that I have much to learn about being a parent…
• Dear Family and Friends: I leave to you these things that I have learned through my life…
• Dear children: A few words to express my thoughts and feelings about what is important to me…
• To my family: In reading my Ethical Will/Legacy Letter, I hope you find few surprises because…
• I want you to know how important you are in my life and how much I love you…
Write down your own opening thoughts.
The Importance of Family and Other Relationships
• As I’ve grown older I continue to value the family more and more…
• So much of what I am is because of Grandpa, and I dearly miss him every day…
• I had a special relationship with my grandmother. From her I learned that one should “do good for the sake of good, not for the sake of reward”…
• I hope, especially for my family, to get along in life…
• If you find a good, true friend; hold on to him or her as hard as you can…
• I hope you continue the traditions and faith of (fill in your faith community) and pass these on to future generations…
• My mission is to serve God by creating a balance between family, friends, profession, and community…
• I know I have never offered much in the way of spiritual guidance. However, I hope that my manner of living has served as a living example of my own moral code…
• Faith in God is important. I am not all that religious, but I am a believer…
• (Fill in your faith community) is your foundation but it is also important to be part of the larger world…
Write down your thoughts about religion and spirituality.
Respect for Life
• Respect life – yours and others. Treat other people the way you want to be treated…
• Be positive and look for the good in people…
• What is hateful to you, do not do unto others…
• Cultivate a diverse group of friends and remember to judge a person as an individual, not by their ethnic, religious or racial group…
Share your ideas about respect for life.
Learning from Mistakes
• Learn from mistakes. It’s impossible to be successful in everything you try to do…
• Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Just be sure you learn something from them…
• You can learn more from a mistake than from always doing everything right…
• Don’t fear mistakes, for mistakes are the springboard of future success…
• If you focus on things that are important to you, failures may come, but they will be fewer…
Write down your thoughts about learning from mistakes
Being Honest, Truthful, and Sincere
• Be sincere yet decisive…
• Act as if all your actions will be part of a story published in the newspapers…
• I have always believed in honesty and advocated truthfulness…
• Be sincere and honest and learn to recognize these qualities in others. Call these people your friends.
Share your thoughts about being honest, truthful, and sincere.
Giving and Receiving
• In giving you make your life worthwhile…
• If you don’t take, you will have nothing to give…
• Don’t refuse to accept: others need a chance to give also…
• In sharing, one learns, experiences, and reaps the highest level of satisfaction…
Write down your ideas on giving and receiving.
• Do good and avoid evil…
• Be aware of the evils of the world, but do not be consumed by them…
• I hope you will make the world a better place, both on a smaller scale and in the wider sense.
Jot down your thoughts on the value of doing good.
The Importance of Education/Learning/Knowledge
• An important value to cherish is that as long as you live you can continue to learn…
• It is a privilege and responsibility to share your knowledge and your love of learning with others…
• Read as if your life depended on it; it does…
• I tried to give you, my children, a good education…
• Have a passion for learning. Learn for the sake of learning and not with an eye only to a future career or how much money you can make…
Record your own thoughts about the importance of education, learning, and knowledge.
The Importance of Humor
• Having a good sense of humor is very important…
• Humor can help you to get through difficult situations…
• Humor ought to be a large part of every person’s day…
Share your ideas about the value of humor.
Lessons About Life
• Act on situations and opportunities, rather than be acted upon…
• Don’t make assumptions of what people need. Ask them…
• Have a willingness to be open. You will learn more by listening than by speaking…
• Learn to be humble…
• Hard work and a broad understanding will bring success…
If these phrases stimulate thoughts about your own life lessons, jot them down.
Reflections About Life
• Remember that one person can make a difference…
• Stay true to yourself and give your best effort…
• Be courageous and persistent and accept differences…
• If you gauge your achievements on those of others, you will most likely be disappointed…
• Don’t let yourselves be easily discouraged…
Record your own life reflections here.
Hopes for the Future
• I hope that you can remember the good memories…
• I hope you are as lucky as I was in finding a soul mate like (name) to share your life with…
• Pursue your chosen path, study things that interest you, and use your college education to get you started…
• Try to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem…
• Keep before you for inspiration a vision of the way things ought to be, and help us move, albeit so slightly, in that direction…
Write down additional hopes for the future.
• My love for my grandchildren is too great to express in words. I hope I have expressed it in other ways…
• Show everyone that you love that you love him or her, and be sure to tell him or her as well…
• Be generous with love…
• To my precious family, I express my deep, unyielding love, for they were a great part of my life…
• No matter how lost or disconsolate you may seem at various points in your life, I hope this helps to bring you back on track: That your parents loved you intensely, unconditionally, and imaginatively…
Jot down your own thoughts about love.
• I apologize for the times I wasn’t the mom you would have liked…
• Never be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me”…
• Forgive whatever misunderstandings there are…
• Forgive me if I have hurt you in any way or if I have been too hard on you at times…
Write down additional thoughts on forgiveness.
• Since no one can predict the future, I ask that should it ever be necessary, please see that your mother remains comfortable financially and otherwise…
• Enrich your mind, exercise your body, and feed your spirit with music, art, meaningful work, friends and helping the community at large…
• Be broad-minded and curious about the world…
• Try to find joy and beauty in the simple, ordinary things that life has to offer…
• Time is precious, do not waste it or take it for granted…
If you think of additional ideas for your own requests, add them to your draft.
• You all have been a great source of joy and strength for me. I love you all very much…
• Finally, I am thankful for all those who have been good to me and have been helpful. I’ve learned to live a good life. I hope a good life for all. Goodbye…
• As I close here, I have to chuckle because I realize that even at the end of my life I do not stop giving directions. Humor me, it is who I am…
• My love will always be with you – you get to keep it and remember it forever…
• I love you all…
Write your concluding thoughts.
Creating Your Ethical Will / Legacy Letter Draft
Exercise 8: Creating Your First Draft
Now that you have completed all the exercises, review your responses. When you are ready, begin to write a draft of your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter. Don’t worry if it takes more than one try or multiple editing sessions to get the words to express what is in your heart.
Click here to use the online fillable form for Exercise 8
Writing your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter can take you down a meaningful pathway along your life journey. You have taken the right steps to learn about the importance of Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters and to complete this guided writing session. Now give yourself time and permission to review, reflect, revise, and make it truly the voice of your heart as only you can. When you have finished writing, find an appropriate way to share your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter with your loved ones. You can utilize one of our keepsake options to help you preserve your values legacy for your family and future generations. Then find a quiet moment to reflect over all that you have learned, experienced and accomplished. You may find a toast is in order.
Cheers to you for sharing the voice of your heart through your Ethical Will/Legacy Letter!
The significance of our values, wishes and generosity is fully realized when they are shared with our loved ones and future generations.
Celebrations of Life