Thursday, October 9, 2014
Legacy letters used to be called ethical wills. I'm glad people have begun to refer to them as legacy letters. The term "ethical will" sounds off-putting to me.
What is a legacy letter? It's not a legal document. Unlike your legal will, which bequeaths your tangible property to your heirs, an ethical will is a personal document that leaves your wisdom, your values, your hopes for the future. It's a way, not only to leave a legacy but also to leave future generations a glimpse of you. We all want to be remembered, but it's almost scary how quickly we vanish from memory. When I took the ethical will course, we were asked how many of us could name our great grandparents. Only one person could name them all and that was because she was interested in learning her family history. Most, including me, couldn't name more than one. In just a couple of generations we have faded from memory.
Ethical wills have been around for thousands of years. The first ethical will, an oral one, is credited to the patriarch Jacob who, on his deathbed, gave his sons blessings... or curses (Don't emulate Jacob if you write an ethical will).
What I've written so far sounds like a legacy letter is something you leave after you've passed away. But people have written legacy letters to newborns, to family members celebrating a milestone, to friends. One woman told me she'd like to write to her unborn grandchild. Lovely.
There's no rule about who, when, or why you write a legacy letter. The only suggestion is that you open your heart.
Take care, and come back next week for Tip#11.
Posted by thelmaz at 12:25 PM