Where There is a Will There is a Way (To Pass on Our Values)

We are privileged to help many of our friends and clients prepare their last will and testament, testamentary and living trusts and associated paperwork regarding the disposition of their money and assets according to their wishes and law. We spend a lot of time to suggest lawful methods for significant planning and savings.

While doing our own estate planning, we decided to adhere to an ancient and lovely Biblical custom of writing an ethical will. That is, a final letter wherein we endeavor to distill a lifetime of learning for one’s children and grandchildren as a legacy of the spirit. In its simplest form, it is a statement of the values, life lessons, and wisdom that a parent wishes to pass on to his children and grandchildren before he/she dies. It is a bequest of one’s spiritual estate. It occurred to us that almost all of us worry about who gets the money, the jewelry, the baseball card collection and the like, but we typically spend less time thinking of the benefit that we could confer concerning what we learned about the way to live one’s life.  Even if our children know what we stand for (I wonder, do they really?) their children may not. If we do not tell our grandchildren what we value most, who will?

You do not have to be a professional writer to compose an ethical will. It is not a legal document. Words that come from the heart enter the heart. You can be philosophical, you can be funny, you can tell the stories about the lace tablecloth, or the baseball that you caught that someone will inherit someday. It is not the cash value that makes these things valuable, it is the memories that they prompt. Write what you have learned, what you want for your posterity and what you wish from them after you are gone.

Coming to grips with one’s own mortality is not easy but the rewards are great. You will be leaving a true legacy that your children and your grandchildren will thank you for.

There are some texts on the subject that you might find useful in helping you to write. The ethical wills I read that were written by holocaust victims were extremely powerful. I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was a younger and feeling the power of the message celebrating life. Somehow, when a person has only one more message remaining to impart, it transcends the ordinary. I encourage you to take the opportunity to be significant.

I have learned from my life experiences that sharing helps others reach the places inside themselves that they wish to reach. If you would like a copy of mine, let me know. If you would like to share yours with me, I would feel privileged to read it. In any case, make sure to put it with your important papers so that it will be found at the appropriate time.

It’s a good life!

Written by Attorney Irving Hymson, ih@hgplaw.com

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