Have you ever stopped to wonder what gift your children or grandchildren would most value from you long after you are gone? The answer may be simply your story. Nothing could be more priceless to a child than to read and reflect on words of a loved one, drafted to transmit a three-dimensional perspective in a two-dimensional note. Not everyone can pass along a financial legacy, but everybody can transmit some of the richness of life by creating a Legacy Statement.
A Legacy Statement is a lovely ancient custom, one that is unfortunately not sufficiently known in our time. Typically, parents would write a letter to their children, in which, they would try to sum up all that they had learned in life, and, in which they would try to express what they wanted most for and from their children. They would leave these letters behind because they believed that the wisdom they had acquired was just as much a part of the legacy they wanted to leave their children as were all the material possessions.
A Legacy Statement, also called an Ethical Will, is not unlike the stories recorded for Superman by his loving parents – offering guidance and wisdom on life’s situations far after they were available to offer such counsel personally. You are much richer than the sum of your material assets, yet your legal and financial papers address will only address the question, “What do I want my loved ones to have?” Your Legacy Statement addresses: “What do I want them to know?” A Legacy Statement is not a legal document; rather, it compliments your legal documents. Perhaps you are in a situation where you need to draft your legal documents and a Legacy Statement to protect the ones you love.
You work very diligently to achieve successes, large and small, you should devote the same attention to leave all of the things you value to those you love.
- * The value of your story in your words.
- * The value of your insights.
- * The thoughts and methods employed in developing your planning and distributions.
- * The value of your love and feelings for those dear to you.
A personal legacy statement can capture all if these treasures and past them on to the next generations.
Legacy Statements may be one of the most cherished and meaningful gifts you can leave to your family and community. But a Legacy Statement is not an easy thing to write. In doing so, one confronts oneself. One must look inward to see what are the essential truths one has learned in a lifetime, face up to one’s failures, and consider what are the things that really count. Thus an individual learns a great deal about himself or herself when writing an Legacy Statement. If you had time to write just one letter, to whom would it be addressed? What would it say? What would you leave out? Would you chastise and rebuke? Would you thank, forgive, or seek to instruct?
Conversely, a Legacy Statement is not an easy thing to read. There is a sense of being a voyeur, of eavesdropping on an intimate conversation, of reading a love letter from the beyond. Those who read these documents should do so with reverence and with gratitude. The words of those we have loved can be powerful reminders and create unforeseen emotional reactions. A wise reader will consume the information as an adult engage in mature conversation with another adult. The sum total of one’s earthly existence can prove completely invaluable to many future generations.
What should a Legacy Statement contain?
The contents will vary from person to person, but here are some starting points:
- * Your beliefs and opinions
- * Important events in your life
- * Things you did to act on your values
- * Something you learned from your grandparents, parents, siblings, spouse and/or children
- * Something you learned from personal experience
- * Something you are grateful for
- * Your hopes for the future
If you are willing to make the effort and invest your time in a priceless gift, your energy and effort should be valued by generations to come. I personally invite you to embark on a challenging adventure and wish you happy writing!