Write An Ethical Will to Share Your Values

07:45AM Sep 11, 2019
Farm at Sunset

Share your values and experiences with future generations by writing an ethical will.( AgWeb )

Share your values and experiences with future generations

When Frank Perdue, the legendary poultry giant, died, he didn’t just leave his family money and material possessions. He also “willed” them his values, recalls Mitzi Perdue, Frank’s widow.

“Much as I admired Frank for his success with his family poultry business, I admired him even more for his success as a family man,” she says. 

An ethical will is a personal document, not legal, that communicates your values and life lessons to your family.

“Writing an ethical will can be a priceless gift to your family,” she says. “The size of the family business isn’t going to be what makes your family happiest.” 

To start the process, Perdue says, analyze the values of your family. Brainstorm as many as you can, and commit those values to paper. Cut down your list to 10 or fewer. “A longer list risks losing impact,” she says.

Share the list with some of your family members. They might have insights invisible to you. After you receive input, make revisions.

Then, plan on how you’ll use the ethical will. Will it be read at your funeral? Would you like to have it read at family reunions? Should family members have it now? 


Life Lessons from Frank Perdue

Upon his death in 2005, Frank Perdue, of Perdue Farms, left an ethical will for his family. His widow, Mitzi Perdue, says they still use it today. It, in part, reads:

  • Be a person whom others are justified in trusting.
  • If you say you will do something, do it.
  • Nurture the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • Remember that hard work is satisfying and fulfilling.
  • Have respect for those who have gone before; learn from their weaknesses and build on their strengths.
  • You don’t have to be the best, but you should be the best you can be.
  • Remember that the way to be happy is to think of what you can do for others.


As you work on your ethical will, ensure other succession planning documents are in place. Find a list of recommended “not dead yet” documents at AgWeb.com/legacy-documents