A person writing thank you to their family.

Imagine that you could remember every person who has impacted your life – starting with your parents and ending with the grocery store checker from yesterday.

That is a mind-boggling number of people.

Now imagine that you had the ability to remember your interaction with each and every one of them. You would rapidly discover that each memory would be accompanied by an emotion – happiness, anger, laughter, jealousy, love, hate, scorn, admiration, fear, indifference. Every person you have met has caused some type of emotional reaction in you. Your reaction may not be rational or even knowingly provoked, but it will nevertheless be forever linked to your recollection of that individual.

Now let’s flip the experiment and ask the same analysis from the people who have met you. Each one of them has an emotion, a reaction, a memory associated with you. What is it? What do you want it to be?

You’ve undoubtedly figured out by now that we are talking about your legacy. It is not too late to change how you will be remembered.

A good place to start is by thanking the people who, at any point in your life, left you with the more positive emotions. While you may not get all the way down to the grocery store checker, you will be able to reach the more important people in your life.

There are two times to say thank-you – now and in the future. “Now” comes by writing a note, buying a gift, calling, going to visit, authoring an online or written tribute, pressing “like” and leaving a comment on any number of apps, throwing a party, smiling, or merely saying “thank you.” If you take the time to do it now, then you have the added bonus of watching the recipient’s pleasure.

“Future” is a bit more challenging. You can leave a bequest through a will, trust or beneficiary designation, but that, while undoubtedly appreciated, can be a bit sterile. What would be meaningful to convey your sincere thanks would be to leave a written legacy document or video that would be delivered after your death. These are sometimes called Goodbye Letters. They are not written to have a legal effect; they are intended only to pass on your gratitude.

There is no statute or case that describes how to write a Goodbye Letter, but there are a few unspoken rules.

First, keep it short. You want it to be a keepsake and quotable. Make it too wordy and your main thoughts will be lost among the verbiage.

Second, use spellcheck. You want the recipient to focus on your message, not your errors.

Third, do not use this opportunity to be passive-aggressive. Good: “I treasured the time we spent together.” Bad: “I treasured those rare moments when you actually made time for me.”

Finally, make sure you give your letter(s) to someone who can be trusted to deliver them per your instructions.

Your words and actions are your legacy. Make them count.

Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give us a call. We can help.

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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.