Legacy Letters: Share Your Values, Not Just Your Assets
We accumulate more than just our possessions over a lifetime. If you want to leave something more lasting and meaningful than material wealth, consider writing a legacy letter.
Creating a legacy letter, also known as an ethical will, allows you to provide your family with comfort and to reflect on your life’s meaning. Although one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to writing a legacy letter, there are some best practices to follow. Below are some of the best tips for creating an impactful legacy letter.
Write a letter. Legacy letters aren’t legal documents like your will or living will, and they don’t need to be written in a particular way. Consider your legacy letter/ethical will a love letter to your family and friends. You can write individual letters to each person, but that can become overwhelming. To start, address your letter to family and friends and begin with why you are writing this letter and what you hope future generations will gain from it. Include feelings, anecdotes, humor, and whatever else you would include in a personal letter. This may feel like a very intimate and private exercise, but that’s because it is one. Don’t hold back on telling others you love them or communicating what matters most to you.
Start now. Starting your legacy letter isn’t only an end-of-life activity. The sooner you start your legacy letter, the sooner you can reflect on and enjoy the legacy you’re leaving behind. Starting now also guarantees that you’ll complete the document. Too often, we purchase photo albums, scrapbooks, and journals only to leave them blank. You can create a series of letters or one long one. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. What matters most is getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper.
Tell others. Let family and friends know that you’re writing a legacy letter. This non-legal document should be treated as respectfully as the will that determines where your material wealth will go. It’s up to you whether you want to let family and friends read it now or after you’ve passed. Enlist a trusted friend or family member to read a draft of your letter. Choose someone who’ll give honest feedback. The last thing that you want is to leave someone out (say a grandchild or niece) and have your letter incur hurt feelings. A second pair of eyes can also provide ideas you didn’t think of yourself.
Be aspirational. As long as you’re living, your life is yours to create. Maybe you haven’t yet gotten to live out all of the values you hold dear—but you can start now. You can start now. Write down which morals you tried to live your life by and what you value in others. Use specific examples. Include what you wish you’d done differently and explain how it helped you realize what you cherish the most. You don’t to be famous or have made history. This is a personal record of your life story, lessons learned, and the values you wish to impart to future generations. Think big as far as your aspirations, but also realize that the process of living a regular life is just as meaningful.
Include history. We all take with us our memories and knowledge of the past when we’re called home. If you lived through one or more significant events, use this as a chance to recount the day from your perspective. If you have newspaper clippings, letters, or photographs, you can include them with your legacy letter. If locating these documents is too much, start with a photo or clipping that you have on hand. What story can you tell about it? What is happening in the photograph that others may not know about?
Make amends. Your legacy letter is not just about memories and values. It also gives you the opportunity to forgive those who may have wronged you, or to ask forgiveness from those whom you’ve wronged. Doing so will free up your conscious and allow you to tie up loose ends. Try not to attack or blame the other person. The goal is to relieve yourself and that person from holding onto past hurts. It’s a gift that is truly priceless.
Leaving behind a legacy letter can be one of the most meaningful and important documents you leave for your loved ones. Contemplating the end of our existence can bring up complex emotions, so don’t be surprised if you feel sentimental while you’re crafting your document. By writing an ethical will, you’re able to summarize your life’s purpose and continue to shape future generations for a long time to come.
If you need assistance with planning your end of life documents or need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our caring staff members would be honored to speak with you.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.