In April, to celebrate his 79th birthday, my father had a special gift up his sleeve for our family. It started as an idea and, over a period of two years, with pen to paper dad wrote his story. It was a labor of love for him and came as complete surprise to us. “This story must begin with a little background information,” is the first sentence of a truly remarkable gift of personal memories and milestones, accomplishments and wisdom.
Times and things change, however, writing letters to share wisdom, preserve tradition, record family history, explain and inspire is not a new concept. In fact, letters like the one from my father are most commonly known today as ethical wills or legacy letters. Until I received a legacy letter, I could only imagine the impact and value a gift like this carries.
Estate planning documents like wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations are legal documents which typically are used to control the distribution, management and availability of assets from one generation to the next. Legacy letters are not legal documents. They pass on personal values and the nuances of your story.
There are no hard and fast “rules” for writing legacy letters. The contents and form of your letter are entirely up to you. You can tell your kids what you hope they’ll accomplish, tell stories about your grandfather, or relive the time you made a key tackle on the one-yard line to preserve a win for your high school football team. Embellishment is allowed!
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Decide who you are writing to . . . .
- Speak from your heart in your unique voice . . . .
- Life has taught me . . . .
- Some of my special memories are . . . .
- I believe . . . .
- Defining moments . . . .
The beauty of the written word is that it can be handed down for generations to come. Don’t hesitate – get started today. Legacy letters are the perfect gift for any occasion!