For many people, estate planning can feel like a chore – something they know needs to be done but they nonetheless put it off because it’s difficult to think about future incapacity and death. Getting basic estate planning documents completed, including Wills, Trusts, Health Care Directives, and Powers of Attorney is important. Few people want to go beyond what’s necessary though. That’s understandable; spending time thinking about mortality can be emotionally draining. However, for one woman who died in 2013 after a courageous battle with brain cancer, the basics simply weren’t enough.
As detailed in a recent Washington Post article, when 56-year old triathlete Jacquie Zinn learned that she had just weeks left to live, she got busy writing letters to each of her four children. She wrote a touching letter to each child to be opened shortly after her death, in an attempt to help them deal with the grief she knew they would feel at losing their mother. She also wrote letters for each child to be opened upon their college graduations and at the time of their weddings, since she knew she wouldn’t be able to be physically present to help her children celebrate those milestones.
The act of writing these letters likely gave Jacquie some peace of mind, but they are also part of the legacy she left. “The letters my mother left me are among the most precious gifts I possess,” the article quotes Jacquie’s now-24-year old son as saying.
As you consider how to structure your own estate plan and legacy, you may want to consider doing something similar to what Jacquie did. While your loved ones may already know how you feel about them, leaving messages for them in your own words can be a powerful way to “be there” from beyond the grave when you can’t physically be there.
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