ADDING LOVE TO YOUR ESTATE PLAN

Working with a professional attorney to craft a Will or Trust is a great way to ensure that one’s final wishes and intents are carried out. Typically, these documents reference beneficiaries, possessions, finances, or charities. Very seldom is LOVE mentioned in a Will or Trust.  

One might think that the actions or decisions set forth in a Will or Trust would be sufficient to express love, but putting one’s feelings in writing can create a beautiful and lasting treasure and a reminder of what was carried in the heart of the writer. Such letters, stored with a Will, a Trust, or in another easily found location, can become keepsakes for friends, family members, and loved ones. In writing such a letter, one might consider expressing positive feelings that might have been previously difficult to share (or were seldom shared).  

A good friends-and-family letter can include many heartfelt sentiments. One could express pride in a person’s accomplishments. One might acknowledge the importance, significance, or impact a person has had in the life of the letter writer. Memorable experiences together, such as trips, shared activities, or special events, could be referenced for their meaning and the joy they brought. Even if you have previously expressed fond recollections of these experiences, spoken words can often become lost to time and memory. Written, they can be held, reread, and cherished for years to come.

Another idea for such a letter is to offer forgiveness for a loved one who may have hurt you in the past. If you are able to extend such a gift, it can be cathartic for both the giver and the receiver. A letter of forgiveness offers the chance to mend something that has been broken and to allow for healing. If this idea seems impossible, then the best option is to remain quiet. A last letter from you should make a mark of responsibility and maturity, leaving a legacy of love and reconciliation rather than parting shots or spite.

One more potential idea for your letter of love is to pour out thanks to those who are deserving or have impacted your life in positive ways. Such a letter is your chance to express gratitude to friends and family members to a depth and degree that may have been difficult to do in person. In this letter, you can express the feelings of your heart while touching lives in the process. In doing so, you can return a measure of the love and care that you have received as you say farewell.

For assistance in creating such letters, the Stanford Medicine “Dear Friends and Family” Letter Project has a template and sample letters, and offers suggestions on what to include. These can be found on The Stanford Medicine Letter Project website: http://www.med.stanford.edu/letter/friendsandfamily