Three million Jews lived in Poland before WWII. The Nazis had a brutal plan. They steadily stripped away Jewish freedoms, possessions, businesses, and dignity. They moved the Jews into the Warsaw Ghetto. When Jews realized that the situation would not improve and most of them would not survive, many of them wrote ethical wills.

Ethical wills are a Jewish tradition more than 3000 years old. Individuals recorded a testament of their values, what they wanted their lives to amount to. They wrote about what they hoped their children and grandchildren would live out. Throughout history, most ethical wills were family documents.

The Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto wrote even though they knew no member of their family might survive. They were intentional, even though circumstances were beyond their control. The ethical wills were stored in the synagogue’s basement.

Over 90% of Polish Jews perished. The Nazis leveled Warsaw. Amazingly when the rubble was cleared, the ethical wills had survived. Today some are displayed at Washington DC’s Holocaust memorial.

What is your ethical will?

It is unlikely that an army will destroy you or take your possessions. It is certain that you and I will pass.

What do you want your legacy to be? After you’re gone, what do you want people to do, say and think because of your life?

What values do you want to bequeath to the people who come after you? What have you learned that you want to share with those who follow you? Drafting an ethical will is an excellent way to share your values and the lessons you’ve learned.

When you draft an ethical will, you put your values in writing. The writing process forces you to choose the exact words you want to make your values crystal clear.

I hope you will draft an ethical will to share your values and hard-won lessons of life with your loved ones.


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.