You have your vital documents in order, and you keep them current. You have a will or trust. Your living will, also called health care power of attorney is complete, and you have spoken with the person you have named as your health care decision-maker about your end-of-life wishes. You have taken care of all your legal and financial issues, including final instructions and a list of who will receive particular items.
While your loved ones will appreciate that you have thoughtfully taken care of these essential issues and will not leave them with a mess to clean up one day, there is one more thing you should do. You need to sit down and create something your family members and close friends will treasure for the rest of their lives. You should write and include a letter with your estate plan.
Words are Important
People can carry sadness for a lifetime because a parent never said “I love you” to the child. The parent might be shocked that the child felt unloved. Some people think they do not have to tell someone they love them, because they show their affection in the daily tasks of providing a home and upbringing for the child.
In addition to the worldly goods that you give to your loved ones, leaving a “last letter” behind can help them deal with their grief at losing you. You can use the letter to accomplish things you might not have done as much as you wish you had. You can write one letter that speaks to several people or write multiple letters.
What to Put in the Letter
You can begin by telling the people in the letter that they are important to you. You should tell them that you love them and let them know in writing how proud you are of them. No matter how many times you have spoken these words to them before, they can hold a letter in their hands for years and read it over and over.
Sometimes people write letters of apology to those they have hurt at some point in their lives. Apologies are helpful in making peace with one’s life. If you cannot bring yourself to say the words during your lifetime or you anticipate that the person would respond in an unacceptable manner, you can do your part by putting the apology in a letter.
If you can forgive someone who did something wrong to you, it can be cathartic to write a letter of forgiveness. These letters take great care, as they can be interpreted as sanctimonious or judgmental.
What Not to Put in the Letter
While it might be tempting to take one last jab at someone you feel wronged you, the last letter is no time to be spiteful. If you cannot write something kind to a person, do not write anything.
What to Do with the Letter
All you need to do is tuck the letter in with your legal papers. One day, when your loved ones go through your will or trust, they will get a pleasant surprise and something to cherish.
You should talk with an elder law attorney near you about the ways that your state rules might vary from the general law of this article.
AARP. “How to Write a Last Letter to Your Loved Ones.” (accessed January 8, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/retirement/planning-for-retirement/info-2018/letter-to-remember.html
Suggested Key Terms: writing a last letter for your loved ones, include a personal letter with your estate plan