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How to Write a Legacy Statement – The Most Important Gift You Will Leave Behind

by | Mar 20, 2018

Tiny stacks of 35-millimeter slides covered the dining room table. One by one I passed them through the slide viewer. The story of my parents’ earliest years together unfolded from Okinawa to North Carolina to Colorado and Texas. Pictures are only part of the story.  

Several years ago, dad sent me a handwritten letter, more like a long list of notes that wind through place and time. That’s another part of our story.

Soon, I’ll be able to view the slides I selected on a DVD. For me, these memories combined with the notes are a part of the family story that has become our legacy.

Several months before my mother passed away, my dad gave my brother a cigar box of letters written by my mother while he was on a temporary duty assignment. The letters, written almost daily, provide a diary of activities, from the childhood antics of my toddler brother and an oh so four-year-old grownup self to cousins and grandparents. Hanging clothes to dry and trips to the grocery store were intermingled with support and encouragement for my dad during training. Ever present was her love.

After my brother handed off the cigar box to me, my dad let me know that he passed it on to us so we would understand how much our mother loved us. Indeed, her love is obvious in those letters, and so much more. She described our budding personalities, and sometimes what she predicted for our futures. Slides, notes, and letters make up the family legacy. 

Have you shared your family story with children and grandchildren? Your story is your legacy.

Create a Legacy Statement

Your legacy statement will leave a record of what you hope to pass on to the next generation.

Legacy statements are non-binding and simpler than ever to put on paper. Few of us handwrite anything these days, so lack of pen and paper or cramps from writing are no excuse. You can find examples and tips online for writing your story, your legacy statement.

Simply put, a legacy statement is a record of what you want to leave behind, your hopes and dreams for the next generation. It is not a record of all you have accomplished, apologies or a list of failures. It is an account of the things that mattered most in your life, the lessons you learned and the values you cherish most.

The Legacy of Permission and Responsibilities

Sometimes, a legacy statement provides permission to the next generation to take different paths, explore new ideas and yet often it is a reflection on the responsibilities left by the previous generation and your best guidance for the future.

Not Your Standard Legacy

A standard definition of legacy, a gift by will of money or personal property, can prevent us from recognizing the value of our family story. There is another definition: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor. Legacies include gifts of money and property and, just as important, the story of our lives, the values we tried to live by, the lessons we learned, what we started and hope others will continue.

Here are a few ideas on what to include in your legacy statement.
  • Identify the principles and values most important to you.
  • Describe the most important role you played in life – your family role, work role, and roles in the community are all a part of your story, your legacy.
  • Describe your faith and how it impacted your life and decisions.
  • Describe a meaningful story from your parents and grandparents and how it influenced your life decisions.
  • Describe what made you laugh, made you sad, or made you stop to reflect?
  • Explain significant giving decisions and the spirit of philanthropy you hope the next generation will continue.
  • Let the next generation know what you most want others to remember about you.

There is no perfect template for a Legacy Statement. But do sign and date it. Share it now with the next generation and leave a copy with important papers such as your will and estate documents.

For most of us, our life story is our legacy. Share your story. It might be the most important gift you leave to the next generation.

Like it? Use it. Share it. Comment below.

11 Comments

  1. Kim Beckham

    Wonderful article. Thanks for encouraging people to actively shape their legacy. This blog can change people’s lives.

    Reply
  2. Cathy Krafve

    Thank you, Dawn, for a wonderful idea. I love it that your sweet Mom left you a treasure of letters.

    Reply
  3. Michael Harrison

    Thank you for sharing Dawn. Your wisdom & encouraging words are always appreciated. Love your insight… Happy Easter! ? ❤️?

    Reply
  4. Jimmy Kent

    Thank you for sharing this. Its true always tell our past stories to our child or our grandchild so they will help them to keep connected with our traditions and customs.

    Reply
  5. The Apathetical Man

    Everyone has a purpose in life. Each and every person is born into this world for a certain reason. Some people can easily find their purpose early on in their lives, while others might have to spend half of their lifetimes trying to figure out the reason why they are here. Nonetheless, regardless of time, everyone has the capacity to find meaning in life.

    Reply
  6. Faye

    A debt of gratitude is in order for urging individuals to effectively shape their heritage. This blog can transform people. I love it that your sweet Mom left you a fortune of letters. It actually consistently recount our past stories to our youngster or our grandkid so they will assist them with keeping associated with our conventions and customs.

    Reply
  7. Mira Borthakur

    Nice article. Legacy is not about property its all about the value of life. Encouraging article.

    Reply
  8. Debo Adeyewa

    This is so enriching, practical and such a lifetime blessing.
    Much thanks!

    Reply
  9. Attilio Art Guardo

    I love the tips and advice in your article. You explained it well and I guess I am going to apply these in my future writing project. You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.

    Reply
  10. MARY SUE Ball

    What will my legacy be? As I grow older and my health becomes challenging I think about it more. Thank you for this article and your wise words and insights.

    Reply
  11. Byron Conner

    Thank you for putting this out there. I agree with your opinion and I hope more people would come to agree with this as well.

    Reply

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