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How To Write a Personal Legacy Letter (Ethical Will)

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Personal Will vs. Legacy Letter

> > > A personal will passes down your valuables.

> > > A personal legacy letter passes down your values.

What is the Purpose of a Personal Legacy Letter?

A legacy letter is a personal letter from you to loved ones. Think of it as a sort of “love letter” that focuses on things important to you that you would like to say to special people in your life.

Writing a legacy letter is a very individual, personal experience. Anyone, from all walks of life, can take this opportunity to share significant things with the people closest to them.

There is no right or wrong way to compose a legacy letter. It may or may not encompass a variety of topics depending on your wishes. It can be typed or handwritten, it's up to you. You can keep it very simple or make it detailed, include other documents, photos, etc. Each personal legacy letter is just as unique as the individual scribing it.

An old photo with some of the most important people in my life!   Source: Sharyn's Slant

An old photo with some of the most important people in my life! Source: Sharyn's Slant

Who Are the Intended Recipients of a Personal Legacy Letter?

Personal legacy letters should be thought of as a precious gift to be cherished by the recipient or recipients.

Who are the most important people in your life? This could be your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your parents, your siblings, your friends, anyone who is special to you and even possible future generations who have not yet been conceived.

It is important that those receiving your personal legacy letter feel fortunate and honored. It is equally important that you feel pleased as you give of yourself through written words. This is a way of "passing the torch" if you will, sharing your thoughts, feelings, history, wisdom and so much more.

As you think about and go through this process, answers will come to you such as who this letter is intended for, if it should be read now, or should it be something you’d like to leave for loved ones to read when the time comes and you have passed on.

At the end of this article, you will find sample "beginnings" of personal legacy letters that I've created to help you start writing your own.

Did You Know?

Legacy letters date back to biblical times when they were more likely known as “ethical wills,” designed to pass on ethical values from one generation to the next.

When Should I Write My Personal Legacy Letter?

For many people, this is one of those types of things they would like to accomplish. So they may write it down on their “to do list” or place it into their thoughts of something they hope to get to in the near future. But years go by and before we know it, our personal legacy letter has not yet been started.

A legacy letter can be written anytime! It does not matter if you are 19 years old, 42 years old or 85 years old. This is your journey. You are the composer. But keep in mind that life can change in an instant so you may not want to put this off until your later years.

Some people may wish to write a legacy letter during a significant time in their life such as a birth of a child or a wedding or a death of a loved one. Others may feel the desire to write a legacy letter because they are faced with a life altering illness or surgery and are not sure of their future.

In reality, none of us are guaranteed a future. If this is something that you would really like to accomplish, don't procrastinate. Set time aside to begin this unique project; for yourself and those you care about.

Depending on your personal desires, you can write as many legacy letters as you wish. You should also think of this as a continuous "work in progress" and add new content anytime throughout your life.

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Other Things You Could Include With Your Personal Legacy Letter

  • Photos with Footnotes
  • Scrapbook
  • Videotape
  • Audiotape
Scroll to Continue

What Should I Include in My Personal Legacy Letter?

Just like there is no right or wrong way nor a specific age you should compose a legacy letter(s), there is nothing set in stone about what must be included in the letter either.

There are many meaningful topics that can be part of your letter. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Morals and values you have lived by
  • What you are most proud of
  • Future hopes and dreams for your loved ones
  • Your belief system
  • Hard lessons you have learned and hope your loved ones do not repeat
  • Things people may not know about you
  • Things you are grateful for
  • How you define success
  • Ongoing family traditions
  • Fond memories
  • Secret recipes
  • Clarify your wishes regarding assets
  • Let your loved ones know what you wish to be remembered for
  • Add your favorite quotes or “sayings” that are important to you
  • What are your major achievements
  • What are your regrets
  • Discuss your faith
  • Share your wisdom
  • Family ancestry that may be valuable to future generations
  • Explain something to loved ones in detail that you haven’t felt was understood
  • Share your gratitude and reasons why you feel you’ve been blessed
  • Ask for forgiveness or forgive someone else of their wrongdoing
  • Reveal something that has been kept a secret
  • What do your loved ones mean to you
Another old photo with more of the most important people in my life!  Source:  Sharyn's Slant

Another old photo with more of the most important people in my life! Source: Sharyn's Slant

Please Take a Moment to Vote

When Should I Share My Personal Legacy Letter?

A personal legacy letter can be shared with loved ones while you are alive. It could be read at a family gathering or privately by the recipients. You may wish to set a special time aside to discuss your letter with your recipients.

You could also choose to place your personal legacy letter somewhere for safe keeping to be read after your death. Maybe include it in a file with your personal Will. Let those close to you know about the letter and where they can find it when the time is appropriate.

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Personal Legacy Letter Samples

Since writing a legacy letter is such a personal journey, it's difficult to say what someone else should write. But I've come up with some sample thoughts to help you begin your letter.

Source:  Sharyn's Slant

Source: Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Created by Sharyn's Slant

Are you on the right path to leaving behind a meaningful legacy?

Each and every human life is a unique self portrait; a beautiful work of art. When we leave this earth, most likely our story will live on through our personal legacy.

I encourage you to read this related article titled:

What Legacy Will You Leave Behind ~ Have You Thought About It? by Sharyn's Slant

Are you a Grandparent?

This article comes with a wealth of information about creating meaningful memories for your grandchildren including great ideas for letter writing.

Tips on Preparing to Become the Best Grandparents by GoodLady

My Closing Thoughts on Writing a Personal Legacy Letter

What you express in your personal legacy letter will nurture a deeper meaning to your life in the present as well as create a critical link for loved ones and future generations.

This may be the most valuable gift you have ever given to your loved ones and to yourself as well. Be sure to:

  • make this an enjoyable project for yourself
  • use your heart as your voice
  • set special time aside to work on writing your letter
  • be open
  • be honest
  • sign and date your letter
  • take pride in creating this unique gift

This is Sharyn’s Slant



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Comments

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 12, 2013:

Hi Vicki ~ aw, thanks for your comments. I was actually "teary-eyed" when I was composing the examples. I appreciate your feedback.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 12, 2013:

Hi Maralexa ~ I'm so glad this inspired you. Thank you for your heartfelt comments that I appreciate very much.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 12, 2013:

Hi Sally ~ A family recipe book is a great idea. My sisters and I have a recipe book that our Mom hand wrote for us. It is a treasure and a part of the legacy that she left to us. Many of my recipe articles stem from my Mom and Grandma. Thank you so much for your feedback.

Sharyn

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 11, 2013:

What a great idea. So inspiring and beautiful. I loved your examples!

Marilyn Alexander from Vancouver, Canada on March 11, 2013:

Such an amazing hub! What a beautiful inspiration and, thanks to your samples and ideas, something that I can start right now. I don't see enough of my family. I know they know I love them - but how I wish I could give them something of value that has come from our family. Thank you so much for sharing this. You are awesome.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on March 11, 2013:

Sharyn Slant, great Hub, but like the family recipe book that I would like to write and pass on. Thanks for sharing, voted up.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 17, 2012:

Hi Sharkye ~ Thank you so much for your inspiring comments. Perfectly said! I appreciate your feedback.

Sharyn

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on November 16, 2012:

Beautiful hub and a very inspiring idea. I think we focus so much on how to leave our material possessions to certain people that we overlook the simple act of bequeathing love. Thanks for the awesome read!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

YAY, so happy for you Grandma Paula!!! Joseph Alexander is a beautiful name. I am sure he is PERFECT! Enjoy every moment.!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hi Angela ~ I'm happy to hear that you like this idea and will give it a try. It really is a special gift for your loved ones. Thank you for your feedback!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 03, 2012:

Hi Mary ~ Oh, I feel the same way. I have all kinds of things with my mother's handwriting on them and treasure them dearly. Plus she had written poems, especially for all her grandchildren that we all cherish as well. Thank you so much for your feedback!

Sharyn

Suzie from Carson City on August 03, 2012:

Yes...Our new little Prince has arrived. July 27th....8 lbs 1 oz ( I guess every ounce counts!! lol) "Joseph Alexander," As a typical Gram I have only one word......PERFECT!!!!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 02, 2012:

Hi Cyndi ~ I am really glad you appreciated this. It's interesting that you grew up in a nursing home. Would love to hear more about that. Have you wrote about it? Thanks for your feedback!

Sharyn

Angela Kane from Las Vegas, Nevada on August 01, 2012:

I have never heard of a personal legacy letter before. I think I will give it a try because it looks like a very good idea.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 01, 2012:

This is a fantastic Hub! I've never written a legacy letter, but I think it's a wonderful idea. I treasure any little scrap of paper, recipe, etc. that my Mother wrote. They are important to me.

Great Hub. I voted it UP.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 01, 2012:

What a cool idea!! I had NEVER thought of this and it's a long story, but I grew up in a nursing home. I can totally see the value of this after growing up around many people who are not around still today. Thanks for sharing this. Hugs!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 23, 2012:

Hello Glimmer Twin Fan ~ gosh, I love that thought - writing letters to old high school teachers. When someone comes into our lives and makes a huge impact, it is so wonderful to let them know how much they mean to us. Thanks so much for your feedback and your comment on the pics.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 23, 2012:

Hi Tammy ~ I'm so glad you like this idea and happy to hear that you have started letters. All your kids will appreciate this gift from you. Thank you so much for your great feedback!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 23, 2012:

Hi Ruchira ~ thank you so much for the compliment. Your words mean a lot to me. I hope that others see that this is such a beautiful gift to loved ones.

Sharyn

Claudia Mitchell on July 23, 2012:

This is such a great idea. I've written letters to old high school teachers to thank them, but I love this. Great hub! Love the family pics too.

Tammy from North Carolina on July 22, 2012:

This is a phenomenal idea. Everyone should do this. I haven't written a legacy letter, but some similar letters. Having a child later in life, I am now thinking of doing something like this. Very touching with some great questions and deep thoughts.

Ruchira from United States on July 22, 2012:

Sharon,

You are a highly talented soul and I loved this idea. What better way to touch a chord of your family than this personal note. This makes the writer and the reader pause and reflect on the lovely moments they spent together.

beautiful and awesome! shared across

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 19, 2012:

Hi Paula ~ Gosh, you are so sweet. Thank you for the compliments. I'm glad to hear you have written several legacy letters. I must say I am not surprised :) And now you have a new baby coming into your family who I'm sure you will also write a letter for as well. Was he born yet? I know it's soon. Thank you for always making me feel that the time I put into writing is worthwhile and meaningful. I appreciate your feedback more than you could possibly know. Thank YOU!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 19, 2012:

Hi there theraggededge ~ Funny you mention about passwords. Gosh, I have so many and just recently I told one of my sister's where she can find all of them. There are definitely things I want my family to know how to find if I am no longer here. And a lot of the info is online with passwords. Thanks so much for your feedback!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 19, 2012:

Hello Qudsia ~ I think you were very wise to write such a letter at 16 years old. I could understand where your parents are coming from. They might have felt fearful that you were writing because you were going to end your life. I hope they finally understood that you were simply trying to give a piece of yourself and that it was a kind and loving gesture on your part. Thank you so much for sharing your story here.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 19, 2012:

Hi Peggy ~ Wow, how fortunate you are to have received a treasured letter from your grandmother. I love that thought about "a grandparent's book" - such a great resource that would be to spark memories to be documented. Plus you are sharing all that you have learned with other family members, that is SO awesome!

It's funny, when I was taking care of my grandma who lived to be 103 years old, during her last few months, she was very confused and said some really bizarre and silly things. I actually wrote down the things she was saying for my sisters to know because it was fun and heartwarming too. Thank you for your beautiful comments Peggy and for sharing this article too. Best wishes!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 19, 2012:

Hi Kelley ~ I love to hear that you are so involved with writing journals and letters for your kids. That is awesome! And on top of that, you have a beautiful gift from your mom as well. I am sure you will get to writing that letter to your youngest son. Thank you for your feedback.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 18, 2012:

Hi Lisa ~ I'm so glad you liked this. I understand about the "journaling." I have so many steno notebooks from when I would journal years ago. I probably have a couple dozen written on both sides of the pages. BUT, as far as legacy letters, I don't have my own children either. Yet I do have things I wish to say in a legacy letter to my loved ones. I'm pretty sure you do too :) Thanks you for your sweet comments.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 18, 2012:

Hi Kevin ~ well you know what? That's all you have to say. I feel honored knowing this article was so meaningful to you. I appreciate you stopping by.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 18, 2012:

Hi Brenda ~ I am so glad to hear that you have written things for your son, especially knowing that he is still quite young. No matter what the future holds, these gifts are a treasure and he will understand the thoughtfulness and love behind them. Thank you so much for your heartfelt feedback.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 18, 2012:

Hi wilderness ~ well, you just gotta stop toying around with the idea and get to it, ha. I hope this hub encouraged you. Thanks for stopping by!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 18, 2012:

Hi Denise ~ Oh gosh, I bet you wish you had something written from your father that would help you through missing him. We don't know what tomorrow will bring and writing something as a legacy letter is so important to let our loved ones know how much we love them and anything else that may be important for them to know. Thank you so much for your feedback. I'm glad this inspired you to write letters for your kids.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 18, 2012:

Dear Maria ~ That is so wonderful that you have journals that your mom wrote. No doubt she shared wisdom that you will continue to treasure. I know you have shared some of her thoughts through your writing and I look forward to learning even more about your mom. You already know that are mom's appear to be very similar in many ways and we know they are both watching us and rooting for us from above. And of course, you can link anything you want dear. I appreciate that. Huge hugs right back atcha!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 17, 2012:

Hey Shasta ~ Great to see you! You are so right. I believe there are so many "secrets" that are not shared and go with people when they die.

This is a long story but just to give you an idea, my mom was always known as an "only child." But the truth is that my grandfather, who died before I was born, had a son, assuming he was from an affair. It was something that was NEVER talked about. My mother only told us a few things that she heard from her mom about her "half-brother." But now my mom and grandma are both gone and we do not have the answers. We have searched and searched and cannot find our uncle and his family. It sucks. We know he was married and had at least several kids. We have cousins out there that we will never know. Even if it was something that just broke my grandma's heart to talk about in person, I wish there was a way she shared this information with us, like in a legacy letter. I don't think my gram did anything intentional to hurt us, she was obviously distraught about it all. I just wish things were different and we had the answers.

So anyway, thank you for your feedback. I hope all is well with you!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 17, 2012:

Hi CrisSp ~ It is really easy to procrastinate on a project like this. That's why I think it is really important to set special time aside now just for this. I am so glad the Universe sent you this hub :) I really appreciate your feedback, votes and shares too. Thank YOU!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 17, 2012:

Hi Patty Kenyon ~ It's great to meet you. I know, no one likes to think about passing on. I'm glad to hear you began writing things for your children. They will appreciate it more than you can imagine. Thanks so much for your feedback.

Sharyn

Suzie from Carson City on July 16, 2012:

Sharyn.....Here you are with another potential WINNER for Hub of the day...maybe even the Year!! This is fabulous....and my answer is, Yes, I have written several legacy letters........I believe in their specialness and importance ,whole-heartedly!............Just awesome, Sharyn! I remember thinking what a great writer you are when I first joined......I know how to spot 'em.....You get better all the time!! UP+++