Legacy Letters and Ethical Wills

Estate Planning | Feb 15, 2010 | Hook Law Center

A recent Investment News article by Kathleen M. Rehl discussed the value of parents leaving “legacy letters’ for their children and grandchildren to share after the parents are gone. Traditional estate planning is important for everyone, but many people want to focus on more than just property or financial assets. A legacy letter or ethical will is a good addition to an estate plan.

The author described the letter her mother had written shortly before her death. “Please know how important you are to me and how much I love you. Life has been such a fascinating and interesting adventure with you, my family, being a big part of this journey.” She wrote about her values, lessons life taught her, and her love for each member of the family. Ms. Rehl says that “[w]hat she experienced during her 84 years of life was much more valuable than the material stuff she left behind.”

Barry K Baines is the author of “Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values On Paper,” and his website is www.ethicalwill.com. The website includes samples of ethical wills, written by people at various stages of their lives. Theses transition times may include marriage, the birth of a child or grandchild, change of career, retirement, death of a spouse, health challenges or the end of life. People may find that writing these legacy letters can help manage these transition stages better.

Ms. Rehl says that writing a legacy letter not only helps loved ones by communicating the meaning of the author’s life, but is a gift for the writer. “In reflecting upon the past and recording thoughts on paper, writers learn about themselves, ponder what they stand for and have the opportunity to articulate that which is closest to their hearts.” People can write their initial letter and keep it updated each year.

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