parents of a young child wrote the following letter (excerpted)
to accompany their will. It will be in the guardians'
safekeeping, for the child to read when she is a teen
or young adult. Of a $700,000 estate, the will designates
$50,000 to the child's guardians (to benefit all the children
in the guardian's family); $50,000 for their child (recommended
toward education); and the rest to a donor-advised charitable
fund with named trustees.
deciding how much money to leave you in our will, we thought
long and hard about how to balance both our passionate
desire for your well-being, and our deep concern for all
the beings of this troubled planet.
long for you to have a full and happy life, one filled
with love and satisfaction. We named guardians we believed
would love you, provide for you, and help you gain the
skills, knowledge and experience you will need to become
a resourceful adult. We believed money was secondary.
are encouraging your guardians to give you plenty of help
in figuring out your work, and to help you with practical
money matters--earning, spending, giving, saving and investing.
With this backing, we trust that you will be able to build
a life that serves you, where you can do work that is
satisfying, and earn the money to do the things you want
often, receiving a large inheritance undermines the satisfaction
of standing on one's own achievements. Believe us, we're
not trying to glorify financial struggle, and we hope
you don't have too much of it. We had planned to help
you out in various ways if you so wanted--for instance,
contributing towards down payments for a car or house.
Perhaps your guardians will do that. Perhaps you will
have close friends who will pitch in together to buy some
of the more expensive items you jointly want. No doubt,
there will be times when you won't be able to buy something
it hypocritical for us to steer you toward having a "normal"
American middle-class life, when we have used our inheritance
to support us? We don't think so, although we understand
it might look that way. It sickens us that some people
(including us) have so much more than we need when others
suffer without basic necessities. We are doing our best,
through our money and our work, to make a dent in the
systems that sets up and maintains
such extremes of wealth and poverty. We believe that more
good for the world will come from using our wealth this
way than it would if we were to give the money away and
get regular jobs. If we die soon, we want most of the
money to help others continue this work.
we deceiving ourselves? If we were poets, would we justify
living off inheritance because the world deeply needs
poetry? (Which indeed, it does!) Others might see us as
making convenient rationalizations to indulge our personal
impulses. But when we ask ourselves how best to serve
the greater human family during a critical and crazy time
in history, this commitment of our money and our lives
feels right to us, even though to some people it may seem
to be leaving you with less security. We believe that
by investing in a more sustainable world, ultimately your
security will be greater.
you would have done powerful and inventive things for
the world with a large inheritance. But we want you to
feel free to head whatever way you like, and not feel
(as do so many inheritors we know) that you have to do
something spectacular with yourself to justify receiving
so much privilege.
also do not believe in setting up a foundation so that
you will become a philanthropist. We feel it would be
not much different from leaving you a space suit, hoping
you'll grow up to be an astronaut. Being an effective
philanthropist takes time and effort, and there's no particular
reason that should be your life's work. If it is, as with
any work you choose, we trust you will find a way to make
it happen, with lots of loving support from family and
love is with you always. --Your mom and dad .
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