I have encouraged many of my clients to create a Legacy Letter, also known as an Ethical Wil. As of Summer, 2020, I thought I would share mine as an example.
I want to be remembered as a follower of Jesus Christ. I also want to be remembered as a kind and gentle husband and father, a generous giver of time and resources, a patient and wise legal counselor, and an athlete who lacked talent but not desire.
It is my hope that my single greatest legacy is to spur my family, friends and clients towards a life-long journey with Jesus Christ. I hope that I used my time and finances to show the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ, and to love Heather, Micah, Owen, Brendan and Kinsley with my whole being. I hope that my love for the Lord came through in my personal relationships, including my relationships with my work colleagues, clients, and fellow grieving parents.
I want my family to learn from my life experiences so that they ultimately hold on to Jesus as their only source of hope for earthly significance and eternal security. Philippians 3:8. This struggle for self-identity has been the single greatest struggle of my life. I have learned that attempts to justify myself based upon any professional, educational, athletic achievements are ultimately hopeless endeavors. I want my children to learn that significance is not found in one’s circle of friends, one’s personality or reputation, financial, athletic or academic achievements, or even moral abilities. I hope that my children learn from my own mistakes in trusting that one’s source of hope, one’s sense of security and meaning is found in nothing and no one but God alone. Psalm 62:7.
In receiving an inheritance from me, it is my wish that my family members use these financial resources to meet living expenses, including private school tuition, in the years immediately following my death. While I hope that my family can use remaining assets to meet their needs, it is my desire that the financial resources are used so that each of them grows in her or his reliance on our sovereign God, who gives far more abundantly than anything we can ask or even imagine. It is my hope that the financial resources I leave behind are sufficient to allow Heather and the kids to continue to maintain a standard of living consistent with what we provided to them during their lifetime. To the extent that Heather continues to believe strongly in the value of Christian education, I desire that funds be used to provide for private Christian education for the kids. I would expect Heather to re-marry, and that she would use remaining assets not only for her needs, even after re-marriage, but also for the needs of our children until each of them are, by God’s grace, fully “launched” into their own respective professional callings.
From my own legal practice, I have seen the significant detriment that a large financial inheritance can have on one’s ability to grow in faithful reliance on God’s provision for us. I desire for Heather and my children to see God’s sovereign hand at work in their lives through how he “comes through” for them in relationships and finances.
Heather and I wait upon the Lord for our “daily bread” for meeting our financial needs. It is my hope that following my death, our children rely not upon a financial inheritance, but trust in God’s provision for how he will feed each of them during the rest of their earthly days. I look forward to meeting Heather and the kids, again, on the other side of eternity, where we can recount all of the ways that God provided for us during our earthly lifetimes, both before and after my death.
The biggest regrets I have from my life are the anxiety-related decisions made in my life as if I were the only one who could manage and control life. I have increasingly seen the benefit of “waiting” on God, and not responding to others out of a sense of pride or human justice. Far too often I have responded in the way that the world believes to be right, only to realize some time later that had a waited upon God, and not responded immediately, God would have cleared the way with some direction, or provide the financial means necessary to address the circumstances.
The biggest accomplishments for which I wish to be remembered are, in order of priority:
- Demonstrating a joy in Jesus, even through the difference sufferings I experienced. 1 Peter 1:3-9.
- Maintaining and growing our marriage in a loving and kind-hearted manner. 1 Peter 3:7.
- Using fun and discipline to create in my children a heart that longs for the love of their Heavenly Father. Colossians 3:21.
- Supporting grieving parents through kind words and actions in a manner to direct them to Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
- Coordinating comprehensive estate plans for my clients to include not just the legal and tax planning provisions necessary to accomplish their objectives, but encouraging them to consider those comprehensive questions that would permit them to examine their lives in anticipation of an eternity with God.