• Clémence R. Scouten

Estate planning: here's what you missed

You've tackled the big project of your will and documenting how assets are to be passed on to your children and/or grandchildren. You met with the lawyers, the tax and financial advisers, etc. The whole thing took longer than you wanted, cost way too much, and it wasn't particularly pleasant to contemplate your mortality -- you're happy it's done. Should a catastrophe befall you tomorrow, all that is buttoned up. Does that sound about right?

Family legacy should be planned just as you would your finances.
Family legacy takes planning.

And yet, like the vast majority of people, you likely didn't include what can be the most meaningful part of that package: a letter to your loved ones to accompany them when you're gone.

Sometimes called legacy letters or ethical wills, these letters serve the purpose of conveying to your children (grandchildren or other loved ones) some of the information you hold most dear. Your life lessons didn't come easy. The thinking behind some of your most important decisions (your moral code, religion, education, profession, family, relationships, etc.) was likely made with great care, and much of that thinking was done before the arrival of the next generation(s).

It is a real gift to be able to leave your voice behind when you're gone. It's not just the content that is meaningful, but the ability of the reader to feel a connection with one of the most important people in their lives.

Another benefit of writing such a letter while you are in good health and spirits is that the letter is a representation of you as you may prefer to be remembered. There is no lens of sickness, no forgetfulness or fogginess of extreme age. It's just you and the opportunity to remind your children of how much you love them.

Legacy letters don't have to be long or complicated to write. Don't make it harder than it is. The only rule is to absolutely avoid including anything negative about the reader or to select this moment to reveal information that in fact needs a conversation.

So what does your letter sound like? There's only one way to find out. Put this on the top of your to-do list and you will be surprised at what a worthwhile process it turns out to be.

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