Ethical Wills and Personal Histories: Imparting Life’s Lessons

Just as a Last Will and Testament allows you to leave behind your valuables, an Ethical Will allows you to leave behind your values.  An ethical Will is a way to document and share (in writing or via an audio or video recording) your values, your spiritual beliefs, and your “life’s lessons.”  An Ethical Will is a personal statement you make about yourself — your hopes, your dreams, your joys, your regrets.  It may contain professions of love and forgiveness for loved ones in your life.

The idea of an Ethical Will is thousands of years old — dating back to Biblical Times:

“Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing.”
– Ecclesiastes 7:11.  NIV.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
– John 15:11. NIV.

The popularity of Ethical Wills has increased over the years for many reasons. As baby boomers age, they’re spending time thinking about what it is they want to leave behind. With the economy sagging, it’s not always money.  Also, more and more people, even those who are non-religious, are exploring their spirituality, and almost always come to the realization that there is much more to life than our brief earthly existence.
If you are interested in creating an Ethical Will, the Farr Law Firm can help you.

Here is a list of questions to consider answering in making your Ethical Will:

  • Have you ever had a life-altering experience? How did this event affect you?
  • What values and beliefs would like to pass on to the next generation?
  • What spiritual or religious beliefs are important to you?
  • What advice or thoughts would you offer other people about living their lives?
  • What has made your life worth living?
  • Do you have regrets?
  • What are the things in your life that you are most proud of?
  • Is there anything in your life that you would have done differently?
  • What hopes or dreams do you have for your loved ones?
  • Are there any other thoughts that you wish to share?

Here are some articles on Ethical Wills:
Ethical Wills Make for Lasting Gifts of Life Lessons and They’re Growing in Popularity
Bequeathing Smart Strategies

Here are some free resources to help you get started:
http://www.ethicalwill.com/examples.html
http://www.thelegacycenter.net

Personal Histories
Similar, but usually longer and more comprehensive than an Ethical Will, is a Personal History.  It could be a memoir, a family biography, an oral history, a or just a loving letter.  Like an Ethical Will, a Personal History can take the form of a printed work such as a book, or a video, or an audio recording, or it could even be a Scrapbook, a Photo Book or Photo Collage, or even a Family Website . Whatever form of remembrance you choose, a Personal History can have a profound impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. You can create a Personal History on your own or with the help of a a Personal Historian whose livelihood and passion is to help individuals, families, organizations, and communities preserve their valuable histories, memories, and life stories.  An Ethical Will is something that should be included within a Personal History, but a personal history also deals with the following questions:

  • Your life history.
  • Your romantic history.
  • What was life like for you growing up?
  • What jobs did you hold throughout life?

For more information on Personal Historians, or to locate one in your area, please visit the Association of Personal Historians.

If you don’t want to hire your own personal historian, the award-winning LegacyStories.org website and companion mobile app were developed so you can create your personal history on your own. The website is easy to use and can capture your memories in several ways:

1. Write Legacy Stories

Using the Legacy Stories Website and mobile App, you can compose, organize, preserve, and share your legacy stories with your own Legacy Story Blog. This is the ideal solution to preserve and share your heirloom recipes, family traditions, legacy letters, poetry, wishes for the future, wisdom statements, and life lessons and values.

Legacy Stories’ Web and mobile App platforms makes it easy and comes with a full suite of features, many not found anywhere else. All you have to do is “reminisce with purpose” and:

● type legacy stories about your ancestors, childhood, marriage and family, education and career, military experience, faith and spirituality, special memories and more;
● use legacy story prompts as memory triggers to recall important milestones, defining moments, and important people in your life;
● create multiple life chapters for your story posts;
● drag and drop chapters and posts to sequentially arrange by life stage, chronologically or otherwise;
● add dimension to your stories with photos, audios and videos that can capture easily through your computer;
● discriminately share each story with five different audiences; private, family, friends, family and friends, or contribute to the Legacy Stories public library;
● link stories about ancestors to over 12 billion records in FamilySearch, the official “Family Tree of Humankind”;
● convert story posts to .pdf to print and save.;
● share story posts on popular social media platforms;
● build a following of subscribers to interact with your Legacy Story Blog.

Whether assisting an elder, a loved one in care, or preserving your own legacy stories, all you need to do to get started is create your LegacyStories.org account through the Farr Law Firm and then start reminiscing with purpose!

2. Curate Old Photos

Before the digital revolution, families saved an average of 3,000 photos in albums and shoe boxes, many representing the visual record of life-defining moments, milestones, and special people. Today, our phones, tablets, and computers are filled with digital images.

Many grandchildren are no longer interested in looking at tens of thousands of your photos to find the important ones, those that can give them a sense of who they are and what life was like in your time. Legacy Stories’ Slide Shows component is a sanctuary where you can curate, preserve and share your highest-priority “legacy photos” in a format that helps future generations learn about their family history.

If used for photos alone, your Legacy Portfolio (1GB) has enough storage capacity for about 5,000 vintage family photos.

With the Legacy Slide Show component, you can use your computer or the mobile App to:

● create slide show albums depicting life-defining moments, milestone events, special people, etc.;
● drag and drop photos inside slide show albums to appear chronologically or otherwise;
● use your computer or, much simpler, use the microphone on your phone, to record your voice while describing the  people, places, or the story behind the photo.

3. Record Oral Histories

When it comes to telling legacy stories, the spoken word is incomparable. When you combine a treasured family photo with a recorded audio narration, you get the best of both worlds by preserving the image and capturing your voice, personality, dialect, and attitude.

With the Legacy Stories App on your phone, you can easily scan the old photo, upload it for preservation, and then simply click “record” to share your memories about the photo — who’s in it, where was it taken, what were you doing at the time, what special memories does the photo evoke?  Then, when your children or grandchildren go to the website and view that photo, they will hear your vocal narrative while looking at the photo. What a priceless gift you have now created for future generations.

It’s rare to find a secure place online to preserve and share your audio recordings, but now you can add these valuable oral histories to your legacy portfolio and:

● create multiple albums to organize recordings by life events;
● drag and drop recording tracks to display chronologically or otherwise;
● discriminately share each individual recording with five different audiences and on popular social network platforms;
● automatically notify subscribing friends and family when new recordings are uploaded.

Create your free account at Legacy Stories courtesy of the Farr Law Firm by clicking here.