We often think about our financial and estate planning for when we pass away but there is something else that can be even more meaningful for your family – a life letter.
It’s a letter that’s an opportunity to say all of the things that you would say to your friends or family if you knew you had only one last chance.
It’s also something you can do on your own as you wish – no lawyer or financial planner needed – and stash away with your other important documents like your will. Having received several life letters, I can tell you that it really means the world to the people who get them. They can read and re-read your thoughts, advice, stories…whatever you choose to include.
Listen now and learn more about what a special gift a life letter is.
Hello, and welcome to another round of, “Our Heart of Money Talks”. This is episode 29. Now I’ve been talking a lot lately about estate planning, but I want you to know that it’s not all tax and money talk.
When you get right down to the heart of it is your wish to care for the people that you leave behind and care for the causes that are important to you today. I’m going to talk about a piece of your estate planning that you don’t need a financial planner or a lawyer for. You didn’t think I’d ever admit that, did you? It’s true. It’s a personal life letter or what some call a legacy letter that you don’t need anyone else for.
It’s something that you can do on your own as you wish, I’ll explain today what a life letter is and I hope it’ll spark an interest for you to write one to stash with your will and all the other important documents. This letter is an opportunity to say all of the things that you would say to your friends or family if you knew you had only one last chance.
These letters can be as long as you want and about anything you want. Remember that the letter will probably be the most precious and loved item in your estate, more than any gift of money or valuable. That’s why I wanted to share this with you today. My most prized possession is not of monetary value, but it’s of sentimental and historical value.
My grandpa, my mom’s side was in the Air Force. He and my grandma were separated during World War Two. She had every letter, every communication, every postcard, every souvenir that he sent and he sent a whole lot. She made albums and glued in linen that came from Ireland, Mars bars from Belgium and cigarettes.
You name it, she kept and made books from their love story. In a way, she left me a life letter of her most precious times in history. This is back in the age where you would actually sit and write a letter. When her hands were sore and crippled, she had a typewriter. So those are actual letters that I’ve kept and they’re in there with all the scrapbooks.
Those are what I think of as her life letters. It’s her history.
I can’t scrapbook and all of my photos are digital. Okay. I’ll come up with a whole bunch of excuses, but at the end of the day, I just don’t like crafts, so that wouldn’t work for me. But the life letter – now that’s something I can do.
So I’m hoping today, maybe it’ll spark for you that thought of leaving your family the same. It is a written document of your values and experiences and hard-earned life lessons. This letter can express your hopes, blessings, explanations, forgiveness and gratitude.
It can be a way to share personal memories, family stories, core values, or life lessons with everyone. It’s truly a gift of love.
So what can you write in your personal legacy letter or your life? For starters, you can share how you feel about them. Write personal notes to your family and close friends – even if it’s simply to say that you love them or that you’re proud of them. These words may seem strange to write, but they’re extremely meaningful after we’re gone.
Also, it’s something that can be read and re-read. I suggest just start putting pen to paper so you can add.
So here’s another thing to think about so you can just tell your story.
What do you want future generations to know about you, your life and your accomplishments? What stories do you want to tell? What do you want people to know about your internal life, decisions and dreams?
Another thing you can do is share what you’ve learned and the life lessons that you wish to pass down.
People listening today might just hear the “wah-wah”. But this is the time to put it to paper. What wisdom do you want to share? It’ll be so much more impactful. This is your opportunity to help your children and others benefit from your experiences. It’s also a way that you can distribute those meaningful family items.
This may be a place to outline who gets your grandfather’s pocket watch, write about the history of that watch and where it came from. My grandma put little notes and all the trinkets. I have our handwritten note of where they came from, what they meant and when they received it. For example, at their wedding in 1936, they received a clock and I found a note in that grandfather clock years later.
It’s amazing. Remember this personal letter does not have to be a physical letter at all. Get with the times then here, I need to also mention that you can do this as an audio or video recording. You may even consider interviewing some of your older relatives to create a lasting document that will be valuable for generations to come.
Give it a try, put pen to paper, hit record if you have to and see what happens. It truly is the best gift and it’s worth more than any of the monetary estate planning that we’ve talked about. That’s it – until next week, take care.