Mother talking to adult daughter

A Message From the Heart

A family letter lets you share your “why” with your loved ones.

Consider the elements that can go into a comprehensive estate plan – a will, a power of attorney, maybe a guardianship designation. While each of these documents can be vital and hard-working, they don’t give you the space to convey the reasoning behind your decisions, or how much your loved ones mean to you. They might answer the “how” and “when” but not the “why.”

Fortunately, thoughtful estate planning doesn’t limit you to just a series of forms. By supplementing your estate plans with a personal letter to the members of your family, you can turn what’s often a dry and cumbersome process into one your loved ones can cherish long after you’re gone.

Putting Your Thoughts – and Values – On Paper

A family letter gives you the opportunity to add context and meaning to your estate planning documents. While there’s no wrong way to write one, they generally have two components.

The Personal Message
The family letter lets you share your story – how you grew up, the lessons you’ve learned over a lifetime, the people that shaped you into who you have become. It’s an opportunity to re-instill your family’s values as well: Maybe you can share the role education played in your family’s history, or why the philanthropic causes you support mean so much to you. It also gives you a chance to explain decisions you made in your will that might otherwise be misunderstood, such as why one child might inherit a family business rather than another, or the conditions you might have placed on a trust.

Most of all, the family letter lets you reinforce how much your loved ones mean to you. Many people find it easier to express their feelings in writing than out loud – putting pen to paper in a family letter lets you choose your words carefully and leave behind a document your loved ones will treasure.

Important Financial Information
While not a legally binding document, the family letter gives you an opportunity to list all your financial accounts and policies, which can provide guidance for your loved ones at an already difficult time. In addition to your personal message, your letter can include:

  • Copies of important planning documents like a will and power of attorney
  • Brokerage and banking account statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Sources of income your heirs might benefit from, such as insurance policies
  • Locations of important documents as well as usernames and passwords of online accounts
  • End-of-life arrangements, such as music played at a memorial service or where you’d like your remains

You can also use your family letter to provide the contact information of the financial professionals you work with. Especially for family members who live out-of-state, laying out your wishes and listing your financial advisors can provide an invaluable roadmap for the future.

Rely On Your Baird Financial Advisor

There are a lot of decisions that can go into writing the perfect family letter, such as when you want it read or if you should write one letter for the whole family or separate messages to individual members. Or maybe you want to consider your family letter as part of a larger family conversation about the future. Your Baird Financial Advisor is a great resource to help you collect your thoughts and create a letter in a way that has the greatest impact.