Legacy letters or ethical wills are mentioned in both Christian and Hebrew bibles as a way of passing values, beliefs, blessings and moral philosophies from one generation to the next.
Significant transition points which may inspire the creation of a legacy letter are:
- Single adult who reaches middle age without plans for marriage or to have children. This can be a great time to articulate your values to friends, extended family and express your charitable intentions for the community.
- Betrothed couples who want to clarify their personal values and principles with one another
- The birth of a child is an excellent time to express your intentions in raising this special little one and passing along your love and beliefs.
- Growing families and changing roles of children can inspire new reasons to compile and bestow values and closely-held memories.
- During a separation or divorce when parents would like to enforce their intentions and reassure their children.
- Middle age, retirement or significant aging milestones are a time to look back and forward and express both your wisdom gained and hopes for the future.
- When life is coming to an end and you’d like to leave a legacy.
- Challenging life events, like: the death of a loved one, surgery, a serious illness, divorce, job loss, moving to another city, the marriage or birth of a child or grandchild.
In the words of Barry K. Baines, M.D., Author of Ethical Wills, Putting Your Values On Paper:
“When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1990, I asked him to write a letter about the things he valued. About a month before he died, my dad gave me two handwritten pages in which he spoke about the importance of being honest, getting a good education, helping people in need, and remaining loyal to the family. That letter — his ethical will — meant more to me than any material possession he could have bequeathed.”
It may be time to consider taking a few moments to write down how you feel. Just a page or two can make all the difference in the world.
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by Laura A. Roser
CEO and Founder of Paragon Road
#1 Expert in Meaning Legacy Planning