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Burlington, VT office 802.540.0529
Hanover, NH office 603.643.6072
Rutland, VT office 802.773.3822
Woodstock, VT office 802.457.9492

May 7, 2015 Newsletter Archive

Getting the Words Out: Writing a Legacy Letter may be an Ideal Bequest

Recently, I was talking to my mom about surgery that she had about seven years ago. Almost in passing, she mentioned letters that she had written to my siblings and me in the event that things did not go well. She said, I wrote them, put them in envelopes and placed them in my bureau drawer. Her thoughtfulness moved me, and, of course, I wondered what she had written. I still do not know, because I trust that my mom's intention is that the contents of the letters should not be revealed until after her death. However, it is more the intention of her efforts that struck me.

For several years, I have explored legacy letters or ethical wills, writing we pass to our family members or others we are very close to and love. These writings express our values, our stories, what has been most meaningful and impactful in our lives, and through them we pass to the recipients a different sort of legacy than most estate planners discuss with their clients. I truly think of these letters, stories, or essays as our most valuable legacy.

Although a legacy letter is not a legal document, it can be an effective tool to help guide your family members in understanding your wishes. This is particularly true with your health care concerns, funeral wishes, and financial and charitable matters. While we may assist clients with the process, we do not necessarily have to be involved in your writing process. However, if our clients have legacy letters, we ask for a copy for their files.

Writing a legacy letter can be difficult. Many times we don't know where to begin. What is it that we truly want to convey to our loved ones and why? Fortunately, there is no right or wrong way in which to leave a written legacy. Your high school English teacher is not going to correct your grammar and the culture police are not going to judge you on what is important and unique to you.

Why should you want to write a legacy letter? There a many reasons but a few include having your loved ones remember you, leaving something behind which identifies your values, trying to assist the next generation in the continuation of those values that are most important to you, self-discovery, telling your story and providing you with an opportunity to express yourself while contemplating your life's work thus far, and offering a possible road map for your future.

Sometimes staring at a blank page seems to make our mind go blank as well. We encourage you to set some time for yourself, find a special notebook and perhaps even a special writing place in your home, and begin writing a little bit every day. Once you begin, just as with any practice, your writing will become more fluid. Hopefully this will become an enjoyable experience prompting you to continue to write.

It can be helpful to begin with specific topics on which to write. A more thorough exploration to legacy letter writing provides guiding questions which may encourage you, and which you may receive from our office, or from your own exploration into legacy letter writing. As an exercise focus on one question at a time and see how that experience feels once you have written a little.

Once you have started to write, you will notice patterns in your values and your life story that will more easily guide you to writing the Family Legacy Letter that you intend. Remember that this can be a moving, spiritual journey. Have fun with it, relax and let your pen and creativity flow. Now that you've invested yourself in the process of writing, you may be ready to focus on the steps for putting that writing in the form of a letter.

Remember that you can always revise this letter, continuing to make it more unique and personal. You may want to give your letter to your loved ones immediately upon writing it, keep it for a while and revise it, or put it with your estate planning documents for safekeeping, allowing your loved ones to open only after your death. You may choose to write or type your final version on archival quality paper with the hopes that it will be preserved longer.

Have fun with your legacy letter. Creating it is a process and will take time, but if you choose to embark on writing such a letter, we hope that you find deep fulfillment in this exercise, and your loved ones will experience a new appreciation of you in your legacy to them.

Daphne Moritz and Denise Clark will be providing a workshop on Legacy Letter writing at The Thompson Senior Center, 99 Senior Lane, Woodstock, Vermont 05091, on May 13th from 1-2 PM. This workshop is FREE and open to the public. For more information contact The Thompson at (802) 457-3277.

Call our office today to discuss writing your legacy letter.

Woodstock: 802-457-9492
Hanover: 603-643-6072
Burlington: 802-540-0529
Rutland: 802-773-3822

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Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

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Call us at 603.643.6072 or 802.457.9492


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