How to Write a Legacy Letter

A legacy letter is a way to express your values, blessings, life’s lessons, love, apologies and even forgiveness with family and friends — shared either while you’re still alive or to accompany your will upon your death. It is not a legal document, and it should not provide instructions for distribution of your material wealth, but it is a lasting and memorable way to say goodbye to loved ones.

It can be tough to figure out how to start a legacy letter, so consider a simple mission statement such as, “I am writing this letter to share what I’ve learned about our family, what is important to me and wishes for your future.” Try to imagine your loved ones’ lives once you are gone — what challenges and joys they may face — and share the thoughts you would have if you were there with them.

You can start your legacy letter with either an outline of topics you want to cover, or just free-form writing (you can edit and organize later). You may even want to ask your family what they’d like in it; they may surprise you. They may want to read stories about your childhood, your parents and relatives that they may have never met and other memories that can be passed down to future generations. Consider including places you’ve been or opinions you may have never expressed about politics, religion or other controversial subjects that are important to you.

Don’t worry about being a great writer. Just express your thoughts as if you are having a conversation. If you teeter back and forth on thoughts, or go off topic and then back again, these are likely characteristics that will fondly remind your loved ones of you. You can even write a separate legacy letter for specific people in your life.

Above all, remember that it’s your legacy letter, so it’s your chance to say things you may have never found the right time to say before. Even if you don’t think your children or grandchildren will be interested in it now, know that once you’re gone, your words will linger as treasured memories.

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