Sam Bauman

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December 25, 2012
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Sam Bauman: There's last wills and more wills to consider

Seniors are usually quite well versed in the necessity for preparing a "last will and testament," as death is inevitable. This will is largely concerned with the distribution of material goods. It can be prepared using models and directions on the Internet, but most feel the need for consultation with a lawyer. Some aspects of this will can require legal steps best explained by a legal adviser.

But there are other wills that some may wish to consider. One is the so-called "ethical will" which title some find Archaic; the contemporary document is referred to in the literature as a "spiritual-ethical will" or as "a legacy letter."

The other will is a "living" will which is chiefly concerned with measures to be taken in emergency situations where the writer cannot communicate his or her wishes.

But back to the ethical will.

The goal of writing an ethical will is "to link a person to both their family and cultural history, clarify their ethical and spiritual value." An example could be President Obama's legacy letter to his daughters of Jan. 1, 2009.

What does one write into an ethical will? Basically, it is to pass along family history, cultural or spiritual values. It also can be used to explain past actions, or hopes and dreams for offspring. Or perhaps lessons from life or life experiences. Or maybe explanations for charity gifts or hopes of forgiveness for actions.

It can also include intellectual discoveries such as from books or theater, which author most inspired or enlightened them and of course sections of the Bible. Almost anything the author thinks might be of value or interest to those closest. And possibly requests for ways to celebrate a life after death.

This will is not to be throughout of as a "memoir" of life. That's a different story.

Some may find an ethical will an attempt to force friends and families to accept a way of life foreign to them. If so, such a will would probably not be a good idea.

But in a way the ethical will can replaced the family Bible of olden times with its record of events in the course of a family's aging. Since the giant Bible of the 1900s seems to have largely vanished, the ethical will may be a good substitute.

This kind of will has no legal bearing except in that it can influence the writing of the "last will and testament."

The living will is a document which outlines how the writer would want some things handled in the case of sudden incapacity to communicate. Such things as what kind of extended life support in stroke of heart attack, what kind of extreme measures would be acceptable and what not.

Such wills need to be readily accessible in emergencies. Some (including this writer) carry them with them.


I was recently fortunate to attend the celebration of life for Carson City architect and civic leader Arthur (Art) Hannafin at the Presbyterian church here. It was an imposing tribute of hundreds to a true leader and thinker. I met him as a "Respite" client and stayed with him often last summer. Although he was suffering from Parkinson's disease his mind was sharp and memory vivid. We shared hiking and skiing experiences and almost always his outdid me. He was a man the mode of Hemingway's best.

• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Dec 25, 2012 12:15AM Published Dec 25, 2012 12:14AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.