Nov 2018

Legacy Letters: Non-Binding but Powerful

6 Considerations When Creating a Legacy Letter

The concept of passing on values dates back centuries to Jewish tradition, and has in recent times, become popularized and known by the term, “Ethical Will.” Perhaps less archaic sounding, as well as broader in scope, is what is sometimes referred to as a “Legacy Letter.” A Legacy Letter is:

  1. Different than a Last Will, which is a legally–binding statement of what you want your family or other beneficiaries to have; whereas, a Legacy Letter is a non-binding expression of what you want your family and others to know and understand.
  2. As broad or narrow as you wish. Topics to be covered might include: family history; your views on religion and moral issues; what you’ve learned; who has impacted your life; what have been your accomplishments (and failures); and why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made.
  3. Enables you to explain, in your own words, the rationale for the decisions made in your Last Will, as well as during your life.
  4. An evolving document. Rather than view it as “your last words,” reframe the concept by asking: “Done well, what does the rest of my life look like?” Then, work backwards to ensure you are on the right track. This way, it serves more as a “Life Plan” than … well, something more morbid. [Author’s Note: That said, you should know that I am, nevertheless, writing this on Halloween. Boo!]
  5. Flexible. You can state your views and wishes using different mediums (writing, recording your voice, or on video), and send different and customized letters to different people.
  6. A gift – to those who care about you, but also to yourself. It will lead to personal revelations and (almost always) to feelings of gratitude. And when people feel grateful, they feel happy. All good.

Click below to watch a good and brief explanation of this concept.

Ethical Wills (An interview with Susan Turnbull)

To see an example of a Legacy Letter, you can read Barack Obama’s letter to his daughters written just after taking office as President. Although a Legacy Letter can be a statement made in anticipation of death, President Obama’s letter is his explanation for why he chose to run for the Presidency.

Finally, If you would like help in crafting a Legacy Letter, email me and I’ll send you an outline to help prompt your thoughts.

More than anything, however, consider expressing what values and experience have made you the person you are today.