It reflects his despair over his increasing deafness and his desire to overcome his physical and emotional ailments to complete his artistic destiny. Beethoven kept the document hidden among his private papers for the rest of his life, and probably never showed it to anyone. It was discovered in March 1827, after Beethoven's death, by Anton Schindler and Stephan von Breuning, who had it published the following October.
A curiosity of the document is that, while Carl's name appears in the appropriate places, blank spaces are left where Johann's name should appear (as in the upper right corner of the accompanying image). There have been numerous proposed explanations for this, ranging from Beethoven's uncertainty as to whether Johann's full name (Nikolaus Johann) should be used on this quasi-legal document, to his mixed feelings of attachment to his brothers, to transference of his lifelong hatred of the boys' alcoholic, abusive father (ten years dead in 1802), also named Johann.