22 Jun 2012

Ethical Will

Ethical Wills are not new  - apparently, they have existed verbally for millenia and are even mentioned in the Bible.  I was unaware of the concept however, and find the idea novel and thought-provoking.

An Ethical Will is not a binding, legal document but rather one that is written by you, to your family and friends, as a legacy of what you want them to know and remember about you.  Its contents can be summarized by the following questions (familiar to some as the prologue to meditation):
  1. Who were you?
  2. What did you truly want?
  3. What was your purpose?
An Ethical Will is based on your values, not possessions.  According to the legal society, it is a more treasured inheritance than any material gift.  It may take the form of a letter, a book, a voice recording, a video, favourite music, pictures, crafts - a combination of all of these - in essence, your memoires as you have experienced them.  Many of us have attended "Celebrations of Life" - post funeral gatherings - where family members have amassed some of the foregoing and leave its interpretation to the viewer.  An Ethical Will is you, writing about your life, your view of how you want to be remembered - your "bequeathed comments" made to specific individuals.

Why do it?  An Ethical Will is an extension of who you are - a form of continuity, perpetuity.  It explains.  It gives you the ability to say things you may have left unsaid.  It's introspective and passes on your hopes and wishes for others.  In a sense, it's a way of controlling your outcome.

http://www.survivorship.org/ lists some topics you may want to consider:
  • What would I not want left unsaid if I died tomorrow
  • My definition of true success
  • The lessons I've learned in life
  • Why I love you and why I will miss you
  • What I appreciate the most
  • What I've learned from mistakes
  • What I've learned from other members of my family/friends
  • What spirituality means to me
  • My happiest/saddest/funniest moments
  • My wishes for you/my husband/my children etc.
I'm not sure that this is the appropriate forum for bringing up old grudges or complaints - but who knows?  Maybe it is - you certainly will have the last word!  That is, until Aunt So-and-So dies, her Ethical Will is read and she denies everything! 

Preparation of an Ethical Will is a soul-searching process - it's a special inventory of your aspirations, hopes, principles - your life's work.  Open a file - add to it when you think of something that says "you".  Keep this information in the same safe place as your other legal documents.  Here's a free template: http://www.ethicalwill.com/

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