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Letter Of Wishes

Death. It is not something a lot of us like to talk about. For most cultures it means the end. The end of life on earth, the end of an era, the end of the guidance that many share while they are alive.

Throughout life, part of our responsibility to those we ultimately leave behind, is to do the planning necessary so that when that time comes, our wishes are written down in a legal fashion. This, of course, is the purpose of a will or trust. A will or trust designates who will settle your affairs, where your property is to go and your wishes surrounding your burial, etc. These documents cover the technical stuff. The stuff that probate court cares about. The stuff that NEEDS to be accounted for at death.

Surprisingly, approximately 67% of adults in the United States don’t even have a will. This indicates that a significant majority of Americans pass away without having made proper arrangements for the distribution of their assets and the management of their estate. The reasons for this high percentage may vary, ranging from a lack of awareness about the importance of estate planning to procrastination or avoidance of the topic.

We all hear, ‘when I am dead it is not my problem.’ It may not be, but it becomes your family’s problem. Anyone who has lost a loved one who died ‘intestate’ (without a will) know that it is a horrible gift to give those you leave behind.

So, what about all of the things we may not get the chance to say? The things that we want to tell our kids, siblings, friends and the next couple of generations (who may only know you through pictures.) How we want them to think about the things we leave behind. What we hope for them in their lives. A letter of wishes can bring calm and comfort to what can be an uncomfortable part of the estate planning process.

None of us have an exact expiration date and we don’t know when our time is up. This makes the planning process that much more important. Creating a letter of wishes does what a will or trust cannot do. A trust can do many things. One of these is allowing you to control your assets and, in some cases, the financial situations of beneficiaries from the grave. A letter of wishes allows you to live on, in your own words, in your loved one’s lives.

To take it one step further, why leave a letter when you can leave your wishes on screen by recording them? How great would it be sit down and watch your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and friends talk to you from beyond the grave? We would all like to live longer and, given today’s technology, we could be missing an amazing opportunity to live on in our loved ones lives if we don’t take advantage.

I’ve always taken the message that our loved ones are only dead when you let them die in your mind. We keep them alive as long as we choose. My hope is that a letter/video of wishes becomes a standard practice in future estate planning. It is empowering, genuine, raw and personal all wrapped into one.



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