How To Write a Personal Legacy Letter (Ethical Will)
Personal Will vs. Legacy Letter
> > > A personal will passes down your valuables.
> > > A personal legacy letter passes down your values.
What is the Purpose of a Personal Legacy Letter?
A legacy letter is a personal letter from you to loved ones. Think of it as a sort of “love letter” that focuses on things important to you that you would like to say to special people in your life.
Writing a legacy letter is a very individual, personal experience. Anyone, from all walks of life, can take this opportunity to share significant things with the people closest to them.
There is no right or wrong way to compose a legacy letter. It may or may not encompass a variety of topics depending on your wishes. It can be typed or handwritten, it's up to you. You can keep it very simple or make it detailed, include other documents, photos, etc. Each personal legacy letter is just as unique as the individual scribing it.
Who Are the Intended Recipients of a Personal Legacy Letter?
Personal legacy letters should be thought of as a precious gift to be cherished by the recipient or recipients.
Who are the most important people in your life? This could be your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your parents, your siblings, your friends, anyone who is special to you and even possible future generations who have not yet been conceived.
It is important that those receiving your personal legacy letter feel fortunate and honored. It is equally important that you feel pleased as you give of yourself through written words. This is a way of "passing the torch" if you will, sharing your thoughts, feelings, history, wisdom and so much more.
As you think about and go through this process, answers will come to you such as who this letter is intended for, if it should be read now, or should it be something you’d like to leave for loved ones to read when the time comes and you have passed on.
At the end of this article, you will find sample "beginnings" of personal legacy letters that I've created to help you start writing your own.
Did You Know?
Legacy letters date back to biblical times when they were more likely known as “ethical wills,” designed to pass on ethical values from one generation to the next.
When Should I Write My Personal Legacy Letter?
For many people, this is one of those types of things they would like to accomplish. So they may write it down on their “to do list” or place it into their thoughts of something they hope to get to in the near future. But years go by and before we know it, our personal legacy letter has not yet been started.
A legacy letter can be written anytime! It does not matter if you are 19 years old, 42 years old or 85 years old. This is your journey. You are the composer. But keep in mind that life can change in an instant so you may not want to put this off until your later years.
Some people may wish to write a legacy letter during a significant time in their life such as a birth of a child or a wedding or a death of a loved one. Others may feel the desire to write a legacy letter because they are faced with a life altering illness or surgery and are not sure of their future.
In reality, none of us are guaranteed a future. If this is something that you would really like to accomplish, don't procrastinate. Set time aside to begin this unique project; for yourself and those you care about.
Depending on your personal desires, you can write as many legacy letters as you wish. You should also think of this as a continuous "work in progress" and add new content anytime throughout your life.
Other Things You Could Include With Your Personal Legacy Letter
- Photos with Footnotes
What Should I Include in My Personal Legacy Letter?
Just like there is no right or wrong way nor a specific age you should compose a legacy letter(s), there is nothing set in stone about what must be included in the letter either.
There are many meaningful topics that can be part of your letter. Here are some ideas to think about:
- Morals and values you have lived by
- What you are most proud of
- Future hopes and dreams for your loved ones
- Your belief system
- Hard lessons you have learned and hope your loved ones do not repeat
- Things people may not know about you
- Things you are grateful for
- How you define success
- Ongoing family traditions
- Fond memories
- Secret recipes
- Clarify your wishes regarding assets
- Let your loved ones know what you wish to be remembered for
- Add your favorite quotes or “sayings” that are important to you
- What are your major achievements
- What are your regrets
- Discuss your faith
- Share your wisdom
- Family ancestry that may be valuable to future generations
- Explain something to loved ones in detail that you haven’t felt was understood
- Share your gratitude and reasons why you feel you’ve been blessed
- Ask for forgiveness or forgive someone else of their wrongdoing
- Reveal something that has been kept a secret
- What do your loved ones mean to you
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When Should I Share My Personal Legacy Letter?
A personal legacy letter can be shared with loved ones while you are alive. It could be read at a family gathering or privately by the recipients. You may wish to set a special time aside to discuss your letter with your recipients.
You could also choose to place your personal legacy letter somewhere for safe keeping to be read after your death. Maybe include it in a file with your personal Will. Let those close to you know about the letter and where they can find it when the time is appropriate.
Personal Legacy Letter Samples
Since writing a legacy letter is such a personal journey, it's difficult to say what someone else should write. But I've come up with some sample thoughts to help you begin your letter.
Are you on the right path to leaving behind a meaningful legacy?
Each and every human life is a unique self portrait; a beautiful work of art. When we leave this earth, most likely our story will live on through our personal legacy.
I encourage you to read this related article titled:
What Legacy Will You Leave Behind ~ Have You Thought About It? by Sharyn's Slant
Are you a Grandparent?
This article comes with a wealth of information about creating meaningful memories for your grandchildren including great ideas for letter writing.
My Closing Thoughts on Writing a Personal Legacy Letter
What you express in your personal legacy letter will nurture a deeper meaning to your life in the present as well as create a critical link for loved ones and future generations.
This may be the most valuable gift you have ever given to your loved ones and to yourself as well. Be sure to:
- make this an enjoyable project for yourself
- use your heart as your voice
- set special time aside to work on writing your letter
- be open
- be honest
- sign and date your letter
- take pride in creating this unique gift
This is Sharyn’s Slant
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