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From Skeptic to Believer: Online Wills and the Berkshire Outdoors

Posted Friday, February 3, 2023

About three years ago, I received an email from someone who wanted to sell BNRC on an online platform where anyone can write their own will for free.

I was skeptical—I get a LOT of sales pitches and most of them are for products and services BNRC doesn't need.

On the other hand, I'm always interested in innovations that offer mutual benefit to both BNRC's mission, and the individual donors who are an essential part of the BNRC team.

So I agreed to listen to what this person had to say. Turns out, they were down to earth, honest, and authentic in their approach.

Long story short: The idea was compelling, BNRC signed up, and three years later over $7 million has been designated to BNRC via wills created at

Explore FreeWill 

That’s terrific!

These are special commitments. 

Honestly, I don’t know the words to communicate my gratitude. When writing a will, one only chooses a few people or causes with which they share their soul. When folks choose to care for the Berkshire outdoors forever, that’s a big deal. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about writing a will online, for free, over the last three years: 

  • Your heart already knows how to protect your loved ones, and your values. An online will-writing platform provides prompts that help you identify in your mind the things your heart already knows.
  • It’s fun to play around on your own. On FreeWill, you can model different scenarios, at your own pace, at a time that works for you. Want to tinker on it at 10 p.m. after the kids are asleep? Easy. Do you do your best thinking before offices open for the day? No problem. You get the idea.
  • You can write a draft to discuss with an attorney. You don’t need to put whatever you write on FreeWill into use. Many do. Others use FreeWill as a thinking tool, and then use the document they create as the basis for further work with their lawyer. How you use FreeWill is up to you.
  • If you don’t have a will, the best time to make one is now. It’s not too early. Rather than some kind of morbid contingency plan, wills are actually ways to contemplate and act on your values. Today. And you can change them over the years, as you change, and as your needs change. So why not have a will for the person you are today? For the people you love right now? For the causes that are doing what you most want for the world? 

Three years, and $7 million in committed intentions later, those are my takeaways… that’s what I’ve learned by working with the FreeWill team and watching several dozen members of the BNRC community put the platform to use. 

It seems to me that it’s been mutually beneficial—for the folks using it, for BNRC, and ultimately, for the Berkshires. (Though you do not have to designate a contribution to BNRC to use the free service.) 

When people make long-term provisions to support conservation, wildlife, farming, climate resilience, and free access to the Berkshire outdoors for everybody… the impact of that generosity lasts for a time measured in hundreds of years... at the least.

That’s powerful. 

FreeWill is free to use. Check it out. If you have questions, let me know.

And thanks always for all you do for the Berkshire outdoors. See you out there!  

Director of Development
Berkshire Natural Resources Council