Your legacy isn’t just about your assets. Over your life, you’ve hopefully come to appreciate what your money can and cannot buy. Writing a Legacy Letter can help your heirs think about their own relationships to money in more meaningful ways.
What is a Legacy Letter?
A Legacy Letter is a way for you to share your values, life lessons, cherished memories, hopes for your family’s future, and anything else that is really important to you.
This isn’t a will where you assign assets or a documented family history — although you might include things you learned from your own parents and grandparents that you want your heirs to be mindful of in their own lives. This is you, reflecting on a life well-lived, passing on everything you’ve accumulated that can’t be bought or sold.
One great thing about this exercise is that your Legacy Letter can be whatever you want it to be…
- It could be a typed or hand-written letter.
- It could be an audio recording
- It could be a video message.
- It could even be a mix, such as a printed list of your most cherished values accompanied by an audio file you dictate into your phone.
- Use whatever media makes it easiest for you to speak to your family in your own voice.
What Will My Heirs Want to Know?
Some people look at their kids and grandkids, immersed in their cell phones, and think, “My family won’t appreciate a letter like that. They just want the money.”
Eventually, your heirs are going to confront many of the same life and money challenges you have.
- They’ll face the scary prospect of leaving an unfulfilling career.
- They’ll wonder how much support provided to their children is too much.
- They’ll be tempted to make a big-ticket purchase just to keep up with the Joneses.
Explaining how you did or didn’t stick to your values at these memorable moments will show your heirs that you can’t just throw money at life’s problems. Your Legacy Letter will be a road map leading your family to better decisions and more fulfilling uses of their time and assets. If you plan to leave your assets to a charity, explaining why a particular cause is important to you could inspire a tradition of giving.
It could inspire good for generations.
When Should I Write My Legacy Letter?
The golden rule of all planning is “don’t wait.” If something unexpected happens to you or your spouse, it’s so important that you have a plan in place that protects your assets and distributes them as you see fit. That applies to your Legacy Letter as well.
Even though it may seem like an activity for a retiree, writing a Legacy Letter can be very beneficial at any age. For example, if you’re newly married, you and your spouse could write a joint letter that describes your hopes and dreams for the future. If your children are launching into their careers, you could share your lessons about succeeding in life. The possibilities are endless. You can always update your Legacy Letter with more life experiences down the road.
Your stories every bit as important as your money, and your values are arguably your most important asset. In years to come, your letter or letters will be a source of comfort and inspiration to your family and loved ones.