Dr. Barry Baines, a hospice medical director in Minneapolis and author of a book on ethical wills, is credited with planting the seed for the recent surge of interest after suggesting one to a patient who was dying of cancer in 1997. He had remembered reading a book that discussed Jewish ethical wills, first popular centuries ago in the faith with an emphasis on remembrance and legacy.
Baines is now vice president of Celebrations of Life (http://celebrationsoflife.net), which trains people to work with seniors to write ethical wills and life reflection stories.
"We all want to identify meaning and purpose in our lives," he says. "These meanings, be they an ethical will or a life reflection story, are ways that give us a lot of significance and purpose."
Beth LaMie, 64, of Kankakee, Ill., found that the personal history concept struck a chord with her and with prospective clients after being laid off from her job as a software manager for IBM.
After taking classes on memoir writing and creative writing, she founded Write On Track about five years ago. She conducts biography writing workshops, helps clients write ethical wills and writes personal life stories for clients mostly in their 70s or older. Prices run from $300 to $1,500 for ethical wills and into the thousands for life stories as hardcover books.
Personal legacies, LaMie says, provide fulfillment while also amounting to somewhat of a claim for immortality.
"If you have a book about your life story or at least an ethical will," she says, "there's something tangible for future generations to see."
Personal Finance Writer Dave Carpenter can be reached at www.twitter.com/scribblerdave .
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