Essay Topic: Imagine that you are 80 years old and you are only now planning your will.  What would you want your legacy to be? Write a letter from your ideal future self to your current self, explaining what you will accomplish over the next 10 years, how you will accomplish it, and what the continuing impact of those accomplishments will be after you are gone.

The winner Maria R.

I am writing this letter as I celebrate my 80th birthday in order to plan my legacy for the decade to come.   I hope that I will continue to be blessed with those I cherish; my spouse of 58 years; my four children, Maria, Lilliana, Justin and Andrew; and my eleven grandchildren.  I have been greatly rewarded during my lifetime, not only with a large and loving family, but with an enriching career and good health.  

As I review my lifetime during my golden years, I would like those who will inherit from me to have a basic frame work to establish strong, positive relationships in the world, not only within the family but also with their friends, business associates, and the general public whom we deal in our daily lives.  “Whether your passion is medicine or music, oceanography or architecture, nurturing parent or astronaut; it is all part of a magical unfolding of the potential of all life on this planet. Still, the choice is ours.  There are no unimportant lives lived here.”  Fast Forward – Surviving the Race to the Future, Schurman, Linda [my grandmother], pg. 63 (2012).

In order for my descendants to continually seek to live their lives in an important way, I am providing them with the means to be viable, responsible members of society.   Your father and I have determined the proper use of our financial legacy shall be based on the values and, specifically, tenqualities we feel will allow our children, grandchildren and future generations to be the best that they can be.  These guidelines shall be focused on the principals of trust, kindness and, most importantly, unconditional love.  This framework, which shall be established in a “Ten Commandments” style, which shall consist of ten basic tenets of our beliefs, to be referred to as the Ten Qualities of a Good Life (“Ten Qualities”).  These Ten Qualities are being established to realistically accomplish our family goals, not only during the next decade, but for future generations to follow.  

The Ten Qualities for a Good Life are as follows:

  1. Use positive reinforcement to motivate others in your life;
  2. Refuse to give up in spite of obstacles;
  3. Think as a Team Player, even if it means thinking outside the box;
  4. Understand another person’s perspective, in your community and/or in the world;
  5. Take action despite imposing odds;
  6. Expand your inner spirit, either through a new hobby, interest, or relationship;
  7. Commit yourself to a worthy cause;
  8. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” (Theodore Roosevelt);
  9. “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. (Proverbs 14:7);         and
  10. Aspire to enrich a relationship, preferably within the family, by doing some act that is difficult but leads to a positive result.

In enabling these Ten Qualities to be promulgated, I shall informally utilize a financial method used in estate planning referred to as a Crummy Distribution of 5 and 5.  However, in thinking “outside the box”, the Reilly 5 x 5 distributions shall be as follows:  each Heir shall receive the amount of either $5,000 or 10% of their share of their Reilly Family Legacy Fund’s portion established in each heir’s name, funded with the amount of $100,000 at this time.  The award of either the $5000 or 10 % amount shall be determined annually by a Committee that will be referred to as the “Committee of Understanding”.  

This committee shall be comprised of me, my spouse, and one other family member.  This third family member shall be known as the “Reilly’s Random Choice” person).  The Reilly’s Random Choice person must be a family member/potential heir.  Further, if either my spouse or I is unable to serve, an alternate Random Choice person shall be chosen in our place in the same manner as the Reilly’s Random Choice person is chosen.

The Reilly’s Random Choice person is a special privilege and as such, the occasion of selection shall be given due pomp and circumstance.  The person shall be chosen at random from a shoe box (decorated by the Reilly’s heirs under 18 years old) with similarly folded 2×2 index sheet with each eligible person’s name on it.  A neutral party from the business staff, unrelated to any participant, shall be blindfolded and shall pull out the person’s name.  The name of the Random Choice shall be drawn on the first Saturday of December of each year at a family party held to celebrate the Reilly Family, which shall be funded by a Special Projects Fund established separately, with the location being chosen by the prior Reilly’s random choice member from the prior year.  

Family members shall only be excluded from being chosen as the Reilly’s random choice if that person is permanently disabled, have not yet reached the age of 18, or voluntarily waive for personal reasons).  The Reilly’s Random Choice may only be chosen once each decade, unless circumstances dictate and; all family members unanimously agree otherwise.  Family members must be present at the party in order to be considered for selection.

 The perimeter of my philosophy in the Committee of Understanding making a determination of which Reilly 5 x 5 distributions shall be made is based on the following:  

There comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good.  Love the people who treat you right.  Pray for the ones who don’t.  Life is too short to be anything but happy.  Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.

The Council of Understanding shall meet in the last week of December each year at a pre-arranged time and date; or, if agreed to by all members of the Council, an alternate date in the following month (January).  Each family member shall have the ability to speak for between 5 and 55 minutes, or, if they prefer, write a letter setting forth what they have done that year to fulfill the terms of the Ten Qualities.  Within one week, the Council of Understanding will send by regular and certified mail to each individual family member a determination of whether they are entitled to the $5,000 or the 10% amount from their fund.  If the family member is unable or unwilling to provide their inspired thoughts to the Council of Understanding during this time, then that family member shall receive the default sum of $2,500, unless the Council of Understanding agrees unanimously to a different amount.   

At the end of this decade, each family member’s individual funds shall be reviewed by a Special Council, which will require two names to be picked out of the shoe box rather than one.  At this time, the Special Council will determine if the remaining account funds shall be doubled in order to allow that individual family member in order continue in his or her journey to enlightenment in building trust, kindness and unconditional love to others.

Finally, and with great pride, I say to each of you – “Do not be afraid to be great.  Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon you”.   All of you have the potential for greatness.   Continue to make your father and me proud by being the best that you can be.  Thank you for listening to us always, not only with your ears, but also with your hearts.

                With all of my love and deepest hopes,

                    Maria R.


Congratulation Maria!