Be Here Then

why and how to write & create an ethical will, hospice card, or other legacy

Sample Ethical Wills

Below I offer three sample wills.

One is almost a short note with a brief list of important points.  The second is written in a simple list format.  The third is a short letter, each paragraph to a specific person or group. The writer very creatively has included a photo of them together, along with that person’s personal copy of the ethical will.  (And of course, the writer hand-signed each copy!)

Whatever format works for you is the best format — use one of these, or combine aspects of each, or come up with your own.


Dear Margaret, Laura, and Mitchell:

My time is running out so I want to say a few things to you.  I want you three children to know I love you very much.  If I have not always shown it very well I am sorry.  I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me.  Mother is not a job you are born knowing.  You have to figure it out as you go along.  As you know my parents died when I was very young so I did not get a lot of words of wisdom.  This is what I have learned so far in a nutshell.  I hope it helps you.

1.    Kids need help every day to learn and remember new things.

2.   Mothers need patience.  Every day and lots lots of it.  You will not always have it but try.

3.   When they smile at you it makes everything in the world okay even if it is only for a little while.  Give your kids reasons to smile.  That will be good for both of you.

4.   Your kids need you to smile at them every day too.  They need to hear the words “I love you.”  Do not assume they know.

5.   Grown-ups are not always right.  So we should say we are sorry when we are wrong.  How else will they learn to do it?

There is more but I am weak today.

I do so much love you.  Please always love each other.  Forgive each other.  Stay in touch. —5/27/99

All I have I have already given you.  Some days it does not seem like enough, but it is the best I can do.  I am so sorry my illness has cost us so much (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 help me on some down days.)

I am proud of each one of you.  I think you have grown up to be good kind and smart people who treat others well.  A mother can’t ask for more.

1.    Thank you Laura for your visits notes and flowers.  You cheered me on very hard days.

2.   Thank you Mitchell for making arrangements and for your visits.  You comforted me with your company.

3.   Thank you Margaret for carrying the heaviest part of the burden my illness has been.  I don’t know how you could stay so patient.  I am grateful.

When hard times happen to you and they will please be kind to each other like you been to me.  May God bless each of you and keep you safe.  I believe we will see each other again in the hereafter.

All, all, all my love to each one of you always.

Mom 6/1/99


To everyone I love.

I am not big on words.  But I want to tell you some things, maybe explain a few things.  Maybe this letter can be passed on to my nieces and nephews because I would like them to know who I am.

1.  VALUES.  I value honesty, friendship, hard work, respect for others, and   giving a helping hand to other hardworking honest people.

2.   WORK.  I think it is important to work hard at what you do.  Maybe it won’t be your ‘dream’ job.  Not everyone is lucky in life.  But anyone can do a good job if they try hard enough.

3.   WOMEN.  I was lucky enough to meet the only woman for me.  I was unlucky that she died before we could be married.  When you find the one for you marry her and respect her and I hope you have love.

4.   FAMILY.  To my nephew Peter — thank you for your friendship.  I am leaving my fishing gear to you.  You were the one who now and then spent a weekend with me.  Maybe no one else liked fishing much.

5.   The hospital —  I never told anyone why I was in the hospital.  When I came home from the war it felt like the war came home with me.  I guess I didn’t do so well getting back to being a civilian.  I had a good doctor there.  But maybe this will help you understand me better.  Why I always avoided parades and fireworks.  Why I always gave money to homeless guys you maybe thought were bums.  Some of them were vets.  “There but for the grace of God go I.”

6.   Apologies —  I hope I have not hurt anyone at least not too much.  Please forgive me.  I try to forgive when others hurt me.  It’s hard to do sometimes.  But it’s important.  I am truly sorry for any offense given.

7.   Humor —  to my niece Stephanie — thank you for all your jokes.  I don’t talk much and I don’t laugh easily.  But on the inside I was always enjoying your humor.  I think it is a wonderful trait to have.  I am sorry I did not have more of it.

8.   Love —  I have loved all of you as best I can.  I hope my actions have shown it to you.  I have tried to be generous in my deeds.

I hope each of you will give what you can in the world too.  And I hope you always look for the good in others even if it might be camouflaged.

Roger W. Anderson (not real name)    October 1, 2006     Boston, MA



My dear family and friends,

I am writing to you today to offer you my love and support for a day when you feel like you need it and I cannot be there for you in person.  It is my hope that on such a day, you will pull out your copy of this letter and the picture of us together that came with it, and remember my support.

My family, all of you have brought me the joys of life.  I have loved my work, but you, each of you, have brought me comfort and strength.  A few of you have been difficult at times, but maybe I have been the same difficulty to some of you!  For any hurt I may have given any of you, I do apologize.  Please forgive any unkindness I may have done.  To those of you who know we have not always gotten along, I offer my forgiveness for whatever I thought you had done wrong.  Recall the good between us and let all the rest go.  I hope we can all apologize and forgive each other while we are still all together!

To my children:  I cherish the time we have had so far.  I hope we will have much more, but we don’t know the time allotted to us.  I hope you will always remember that no matter what happened, you could always come home to me and your Dad and we would support you.  When I am gone remember that, and think of me still being there with you, hugging you and believing in you.  When you have children of your own I hope you do the same for them.  Richard, please look after your sister Rachel, and Rachel, please look after your brother Richard.  I love both of you more than words can express.  I always will love you, no matter what happens.  Count on that.

To my grandchildren whenever you come:  I am sorry if I am not there to welcome you into the world and help teach you how to grow up into wonderful people.  Know that I will love you and if there are such things as guardian angels I hope to be one for you as you grow up.  Please respect your parents even if they are not perfect.  None of us is!  Be nice to older people — you will be one much, much sooner than you can ever believe!  Enjoy every single day you get.

Rachel:  Great-grandmother MacKenzie’s secret recipe for you-know-what is in my closet in her box of letters.  Pass it on only to the best cook in the next generation, but never to strangers.  That is the family tradition.  She was from Scotland and the recipe and the pottery dish is the only thing they salvaged from the fire that also killed much of her family.  Think of me, of her, and all the women who have come before you in the family when you make that recipe!  Put love and memory in every stir of the pot.

Richard — your father has been a wonderful man for all his gruffness.  I would marry him again, even knowing the difficulties we would encounter.  Please look after him if I can’t.  Remember that he gave me, all of us, a good life.  You take after him in every good way.

Walter, my darling husband, you know my heart.  I love you now and I love you always, even if I have to leave first, and I will wait for you on the other side.  What would heaven be without you?  Thank you, sweetheart, for two wonderful, wonderful children and our life so far.  With all the love and tenderness I do not know how else to express to you, my sweetheart.

All my love to each of you,

Rose  / Mom                                                                  May 1st, 2001


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