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How to leave a beautiful legacy

My littlest one is snuggled across my lap, snoring, as I type this and the big boy is trying to build the biggest tower in the universe. It breaks my heart, because here I am writing about how an incomplete will destroyed my family for many years. It was the final straw in a monumentally crappy situation. All the while, I’m edging closer to the age my dad died.

How to write a will |Blah Blah Magazine

Gah, I hate thinking about it, but I haven’t written a will. So, I’ve decided to reframe it in my mind and think of it as a part of a legacy and I want to try and leave a beautiful legacy.

Really, a beautiful legacy is about living a good life, one that I’m proud of and probably the ultimate goal of my Building a Beautiful Life adventure. No pressure – ha!

Luckily, I’ve found some wonderful inspiration.

How to write a will |Blah Blah Magazine

Words speak louder when someone has died

Mitchell Whisenhunt left more than 30 letters to friends and family, “Many of the notes were reserved to be opened at a later date on special occasions and milestones in his loved ones’ lives, including cards for his each of his daughter’s birthdays until her 18th.” The rest of the article is here (I well up every time I read it).

A gesture speaks 1000 words

Small gestures are powerful. My grandfather’s will was full of problems, but one of the lovely things was how he left thoughtful gifts for people who had been important to him. Many weren’t ‘perfect’ and some, were downright hilarious, but people still valued the intention.

The most hilarious of all was my stepmother being bequeathed the banging antelopes sculpture. The one she had once overly complimented to compensate for the fact my grandfather caught her staring at it.

She had no love for the object, but she was genuinely touched that he had remembered the discussion they’d had about it and we all had a bit of a chuckle and then my dog chewed the sculpture and now I’m not sure what’s happened to it, but you get my drift – it really is the thought that counts.

How to write a will |Blah Blah Magazine

Simply Beautiful

Thoughts and objects intermingle around death. ‘It’s a cliche to say “you can’t take it with you,” but that becomes meaningful in writing the will,’ said Marele Day, the author of Lambs of God, when I asked about her experience of writing a will. “How liberating to step away from it all. On the other hand, that material wealth is important to those left behind, who will also come to a point of passing it on and letting it go.”

Perhaps, the objects act as totems for those left behind to hold as long as they need to and we need to remember how valuable that process can be.

A life well lived

I won’t dwell on this, because the topic is too big, but the best legacy is a life well lived.

I love Brooke McAlary’s post on writing the first couple of lines of your ideal obituary. Yes, it sounds morbid, but it’s actually a really powerful exercise on defining how you would like to live and it doesn’t even take that long. The tricky part is actually living that life, but the exercise is a mighty fine place to start.

Considering, I’d like mine to mention laughing, I better go and get a joke book and one day I may be able to tell a joke without ruining the punch line.

How to write a will |Blah Blah Magazine

Holding the children

Megan Daley, of Children’s Book Daily, lost her brother three years ago to suicide and he didn’t have a will. Fortunately, the family is very close and able to trust one another to carry out his wishes. However, it has created an extra challenge at an already devastating time.

‘Sometimes I wish there was a will (even a note) so that his wishes for his gorgeous children and their future could be heard, and written down for them to see in the future,’ Megan said. ‘It would be reassurance for them that we are carrying out what he would have wanted.’ 

I also love Megan’s grandmother’s approach of writing a will that is, ’Fair to all, because it is your last legacy and what you will be remembered for.’ 

The last post

So many of us lead big lives online, we meet friends and find communities that we love and spend a lot of time with, which leaves me wondering if there is a way of saying ‘thank you’ in our digital afterlife.

‘We are putting a favourite photo and our passwords in the family’s safety deposit box,’ said Christina Butcher, Mr & Mrs Romance. ‘That way the family can help us, should the worst happen.’

Legacy seated

The will, the maker or breaker

The members of my family aren’t bad people, particularly money hungry, or even selfish. The reason I know this is because when my grandmother died she left a simple and fair will, the family executed it and it was done.

The same family was left with my grandfather’s complicated and incomplete will bickered for 20 years. My father died in the process and his will had to wait for Pop’s will to finish. Now, the wills have finished it’s like a completely different family. Everyone is happy getting on with their lives.

I don’t want my children – this delicious snuffling lump on my lap and the master tower builder – to waste years of their lives trying to untangle the meaning of my words.

And this is why I will read the, ahem, boring articles on will writing. Just search ‘how to write a will’ and you’ll see what I mean. Boring, but necessary. This is the Australian Government’s page on how to write a will and they also talk about inexpensive option of DIY kits (so, I don’t really have much excuse.) However, if the will is complicated, the advice is to hire a law firm.

My little snuffle-o-sarus is waking up and I have an overwhelming need to give him a cuddle, but I’d love to hear your experience of dealing with wills and legacies. Do you have any suggestions for leaving a beautiful legacy?

 

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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11 comments

  1. Beautiful post, my love. I confess to not having a will either… it’s always been on the ‘one day’ to do list. Bit like cleaning the microwave and rotating the mattress x

  2. Thank you for the reminder Bele – Handy Hubby and I did ours before we travelled to a wedding overseas last year – but they still need to be signed!! We put off doing a will for so long as it wasn’t something we wanted to think about. When we finally got around to doing it through a lawyer friend, the process was surprisingly straightforward. I love Megan’s grandmother’s thoughts – fair to all. That’s all we can hope for too xx

  3. Such beautiful ideas and this post is so important because it’s something that we all need to talk about. This is such a timely reminder, me and my husband keep saying we’re going to write a will and then life keeps getting in the way. But that’s the thing about wills, you never know when you’re going to need them! I love the idea of leaving letters and special gifts for special people. I remember reading the story of Zach Sobiech, a teenager who had terminal cancer. He wanted to write letters to the people he loved, but wrote songs instead. His music is such a beautiful legacy. I totally get how you feel about coming up to the same age as your dad, my grandpa died at 49 and I spend the whole of my mum’s 49th year on a state of permanent alert, and spent her 50th year exhaling.

  4. Beautifully written. The best advice I can give anyone with children is not to leave loose ends. Make a will and write letters or make videos for your children because you do not know when your time will end. My mother died suddenly at 40 with no will and I was left to work out what to do. At a time when I should have been grieving I was trying to deal with legal matters.

  5. This is lovely and so important. When I was little my grandma would sit me on her bed and show me her jewellery, telling me who in our family she thought would look nice in various pieces. But she didn’t write it down and so my mum and my aunt had their way with it. I just wanted a tiny, token to remember her by but there was nothing left that I recognised. People behave quite oddly in these circumstances.
    I love the idea of notes for your loved ones, just beautiful.

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