Back to Sample Legacies

After his father's death, Hank wrote the ethical will he believed his father would have written if he was able to. He consulted with friends and relatives to affirm it's accuracy, and read this at his Dad's funeral. All present asked for a copy as a way to remember Harold. This was very helpful to the family in going through the grieving process.

I have a friend who has written a book and speaks on the topic of ethical wills. The practice started as early as Jacob gathering his children around his death bed, and Moses' farewell to the Children of Israel. While the legal will bequeaths valuables, the ethical will bequeaths values.

If Dad had written an ethical will, I think this would be it…

Dear Family and Friends,

I am leaving you with what matters most to me and what I hope you remember most.

1st and foremost is The love of family. They are the wellspring of who you are. Nurture the relationships, be there for each other.

— Dad was always there for his mother, brother and sisters. When he married, he added his in-laws as part of his family. When we married, he refused to be considered an in-law, he was Dad and our spouses were his children.

2nd, Value education and life long learning. It keeps you stimulated, keeps you young, and helps you succeed.

— One of the favorite parts of Dad's job was writing the store ads. He loved words. His help on my Bar Mitzvah sermon was grueling, hard to believe even after that experience part of my career is public speaking.

3rd, Give to your community. We all come out of a community, were enriched by it, and have the responsibility to give back to the community.

— Dad was an active fundraiser for his Pittsfield temple, and continued in Florida at Menorah Manor. With pride, he told about his father letting tenant's stay in his building during the depression even though they could not pay the rent.

4th, Whatever you do, work hard, play hard and compete hard at both.

— Dad put in many hours at the store to be successful, and after a long Saturday at the store, he and Mom would go play nine holes of golf. Later, he switches from golf to tennis. Last week I was telling Dad's caregiver that I could not beat Dad at tennis until he was in his 70's. At that, though I hadn't thought Dad was listening, I could see him smile! Last week when he was in pain, I said "you're a fighter Dad" and he nodded his head.

And finally, friends and family (he would have written), never lose your sense of humor; remember not to take yourself so damn seriously.

— Two days before he died, Jane said to him "see you tomorrow", to which Dad weakly replied- "not if I see you first!"

As I said to Dad this past Friday, when I think about how to handle my kids, I ask — what would Dad do?

He never wrote it down, but through his actions he left us a very clear ethical will.