While almost everyone is familiar with the legal document of a will, legacy wills are not as well known. A legacy will is a bequeathing of a personal non-financial heritage. They are not a legal document, and there is no standard way of writing one. Although most are written, they can also be passed down through song, a painting, or other forms of artistic expression. The first clear record of a legacy will is found in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, Jacob gathers his twelve sons around his deathbed. He shares his hopes for them and gives them advice on how they should live after his death.
A legacy is much more than a family tree or a cultural background. It is a composition of family members, religious influences, cultural heritage, educational backgrounds, memories, morals, values, and traditions that are all a part of an unspoken “world.”
A legacy will is an instrument in which to pass down these experiences, values, advice, and life lessons. Your hopes and dreams for future generations are expressed in legacy wills.
Share your legacy during life
Legacy wills are not only for those reflecting on the end of life. Some parents write them for their newborn children and to document their family history. A legacy will can be a work in progress, ever evolving with new life experiences. Some people share their legacy will with family members during the writing process. This allows family members to reflect and perhaps ask for additional information and stories. Sharing, remembering, and talking about life’s important moments becomes part of their memories.
Legacy wills usually address several areas. The first section lets family members know your motivation for sharing your life and wishes with them. Other sections detail family history, and focus on values (spiritual beliefs), wisdom and advice, blessings and expressions of love, summaries of life lessons learned, accomplishments and gratitude, and hope for future generations. While the whole of a human experience cannot be summed up in one document, this document can pass on memories and capture the importance of life and family.
Questions to Consider when Writing a Legacy Will
Why is it important to you to share your legacy?
Which family members will be reading and cherishing your memories?
What do you think is important for future generations of family members to know?
How would you like to be remembered?
Which beliefs guide you, and help and support your daily life?
How have you found joy and happiness in life?
Do you have life lessons and stories you would like to share from your parents and grandparents?
What traditions would you like to see your family continue?
Which family stories would you like to see preserved?
In thinking about your work life, what advice would you pass on about jobs and a career?
What experiences have had the greatest impact in your life?
How should disappointment and regret influence life decisions?