People Write Legacy Letters for Loved Ones
A Legacy Letter, also known as an Emotional or Ethical Will is a method of documenting your life experiences, values, and opinions to share with family and others. Everyone creates their own unique personal legacy of the life they have lived. We all have many stories, experiences, and lessons we have learned. The wisdom that we attained along the journey of life should be shared with your loved ones.
What a Legacy Letter is not
A Legacy Letter or Statement unlike a Last Will and testament or an Advance Care – Health Directive “Living Will”, is not a legal document. It is a personal and spiritual letter. It does not provide for the distribution of your property, wealth and estate planning. But, it can be a useful basis for the preparation of a Legal Will and Advance Care – Health Directive.
Legacy Letters or Legacy Statements may range from:
- a simple handwritten letter of a few paragraphs
- a detailed electronic document of several pages or more
- it can be an audio recording or in a video format.
Legacy Letters are a way to document their personal reflections about what truly mattered most in their lives. Including their:
- life’s lessons
- blessings and forgiveness for loved ones or
- events that shaped their lives.
Legacy Letters are Not New
Legacy Letters are not new. References to Legacy instructions are in the Judeo-Christian Bible, Genesis 49:1-28-33, when a dying Jacob gathered his sons to offer them his blessing and to ask that they bury him in Canaan with his ancestors and not in Egypt. Examples of legacy instructions are also in the Hebrew Bible and in various other societies’ traditions.
Why Should You Write a Legacy Letter today?
Most of us are not in impending danger in our everyday life or work, or so we believe.
- The 35 people who visited the Port Arthur site on the 28th April 1984
- The 202 people (including 88 Australians) who died at the Sari Club in Kuta, Bali in 2002 thought they we going to enjoy a night out in a holiday destination
- When 6 people died in the Bourke Street Mall Melbourne in 2017, or
- When nearly 25 people a week die on our roads.
All these people didn’t think they were in danger or going to die that day.
I do not wish to alarm you but I wish to remind you that none of us knows when our End of Life will be. Start your Legacy Letter today as tomorrow may be too late!
I want to encourage you to take the time to express your love to the people in your life. Your:
- spouse or partner
- children and grandchildren
- extended families, work colleagues, and
When Do People Write a Legacy Letter?
There is no set time to write a Legacy Letter, it is dependent on each person’s unique journey and timeline. A Legacy Letter can be completed at any time in your life. Legacy Letters are being written by people that reach various milestones or face challenging events in their lives.
These life milestones may include:
- the birth of a child
- when a couple become “empty nesters”
- presented with a retirement situation
- when a significant person of influence in your life has died, such as a parent or mentor
- when people are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses
These are examples of times when people reflect on what is important to them in life. It provides a dimension to their lives by providing a link to future generations. They are providing an outline of their values and beliefs for their loved ones when they are gone.
What Do I Include in a Legacy Letter?
Every Legacy Letter or Legacy Statement is as unique as the person writing it. The following are only some of the points you may wish to write about:
- beliefs, opinions, and values
- things you did to act on your value,
- something you learned from any of the following influencers in your life. Like your grandparents, parents, spouse, children or a friend
- what you learned from your life’s experience
- what has meant most to you?
- something you are grateful for
- what future hopes and wishes you have for your loved ones.
How to Start Your Legacy Letter
Consider who you are writing the letter for. By using the above points write a sentence or two about each point you wish to include.
As the weeks and months progress:
- review what you have composed
- group related items together and patterns will become clear to you
- review each of the points and organise them into sections
- organise the individual sentences into paragraphs in an order that is logical to you, and
- add an introduction and conclusion.
Now file your draft letter away in a safe place and revisit it to review, revise and update your thoughts.
If you have taken the time to read this article, I encourage you to sit down, put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard and begin writing. Document your thoughts on what matters most to you for the people you love to read and cherish when you have gone.
Your Legacy Letter or Emotional Wills should be considered as part of your End of Life Planning. Discover what other End of Life planning documents you should consider organising and putting on your to-do list as part of your overall planning.