John O’Grady, O’Grady Law Group, APC
Swami’s Will a Testament to His Spiritual Values
As a monk and the founder of the Ananda Church of Self-Realization, Swami Kriyananda had renounced most of his material goods long before his death in April 2013. His will focused on enumerating his spiritual values, rather than the disposition of property.
Swami Kriyananda’s will was separated into three sections: a Will, which dealt with material possessions and money; a Testament, which laid out his beliefs and gave his spiritual successors a road map for making decisions based on his teachings; and a Legacy, describing the spiritual gifts he wished to pass on to the Ananda community.
The yogi, who had always insisted upon a decentralized model of leadership within the organization, was most concerned with a smooth succession that would preserve cohesiveness. His approach is working because he had clearly groomed and designated his successors and his community knew it long before he died. This spiritual leader’s “Last Will, Testament and Spiritual Legacy” left a bequest of inspiration and love, easing the transition for grieving survivors. Does yours?
George Washington Spoke Up at Death
After struggling with his values and the prevailing social norms throughout his lifetime, George Washington aligned his property with his values when he penned his will in 1799. He set aside the prevailing custom for a husband to leave his wife “a widow’s portion,” and instead honored his “dearly beloved wife Martha,” in three ways: he bequeathed some of his property outright to her; he gave her “the use, profit and benefit” of the rest of his vast estate during her lifetime; and he nominated her as an executor of his will.
Washington also wrote in his will that “… it has always been a source of serious regret with me to see the youth of these United States sent to foreign countries for the purpose of education, often before their minds were formed, or they had imbibed any adequate ideas of the happiness of their own; contracting, too frequently, not only the habits of dissipation and extravagance, but principles unfriendly to Republican Government and to the true & genuine liberties of mankind; which, thereafter are rarely overcome.” Accordingly, he endowed the national university in the District of Columbia that became George Washington University. He also specified that his slaves should be freed, and instructed that they be cared for and taught to read and write.
Washington’s will revealed much about his character, his views, his diverse and valuable property, and his distinctive writing style. He had the courage and capacity to protect and shape his legacy in accordance with his values. Do you?
About the author:
John O‘Grady, O’Grady Law Group, APC, is the immediate Past Chair of BASF’s Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Section.