One of my favorite things about the legacy planning process is having conversations about clients’ life passions. Whether it is their children or grandchildren, investing in their community, or the significance they derive from their work, every person I’ve encountered has a set of values that give shape and direction to their lives. It’s in these moments of reflection that families tease out the things that matter most to them, and it’s where all good legacy plans start.
We often encourage families to write letters to their loved ones as a way of communicating their love, dreams, and hopes for them. These are deeply personal and a beautiful way to speak directly to each person that matters to them. Often, families want to share their values, passions, and beliefs in a more broad way. This is where the inclusion of a preamble can be particularly useful.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”
When you hear the word “preamble,” maybe this comes to mind for you like it does for me. The preamble to the Constitution is probably one of the most quoted parts of the document that’s so foundational to our nation. The Constitution, just like a Will or estate plan, is full of nuts and bolts. It gives instructions for how our country is to operate at a practical level. And while things are added as significant court cases are decided, it’s remained largely untouched in the centuries since the United States was founded. In the same way, a Will contains a lot of nuts and bolts about how an estate is to be handled and distributed.
So, just like with the Constitution, a preamble or statement of faith can be added to the beginning of your Will. It can capture your values in writing and give a high-level overview of the rationale and philosophy you’ve taken as you’ve put your plan together. This section can give assurance and comfort to surviving loved ones and set a thoughtful tone for the specific details and instructions that will follow. There’s no requirement that this component be included, but it can be a nice touch!
Who will see my will?
Upon someone’s death, their will becomes a public document and is available for anyone to see. Some families use this as an opportunity to make a public statement of their beliefs and/or values, though others choose to keep their will simple and write a separate letter meant for loved ones.
How is a preamble typically written?
A will or estate plan is written in legal terms, and can often come across as complex or full of jargon. A preamble, by contrast, can bring some softness to the estate documents, and can be written in a conversational style. It can be written in first-person (“I remember…”, “We hope…”, “I/we believe…”, etc.)
What things should be included in a preamble/statement of faith?
- If someone is a person of faith, a preamble is a great place to share about their relationship to God & His role in their life. They might share a guiding Bible verse or, if they don’t practice a traditional religion, a significant quote or piece of poetry.
- Some include details about why they drafted these estate documents: to eliminate tension between heirs, to bring clarity or peace of mind, etc.
- Though it can sometimes be difficult to put in words, it can be a good place to add high-level rationale for their estate decisions. If one son has an interest in cars, he might inherit the Chevy collection and racing memorabilia, while another son might inherit a fishing cottage and boat.
- A preamble is a good place to articulate one’s life purpose, core values, or motivations.
- It’s a great place to express love and gratitude for a spouse, children, or other heirs. It could speak to how the writer/trustor intentionally loved their spouse and/or raised their children. If there has been tension, or someone simply wants to clear the air about an issue, it could be a good spot to forgive someone or ask another for forgiveness.
- If someone has chosen to leave a bequest or gift to charity, it could articulate why they’re remembering charity, or why they’ve chosen the cause(s) they have.
- It’s common to articulate one’s hopes/dreams for children/grandchildren. If those children or grandchildren are named as beneficiaries in the estate, it could be a good spot to include how you hope their inheritance will impact them.
- It could be a great spot to share significant life lessons or words of wisdom.
Need Help With Your Estate Plan?
Our team at Apex Legacy Consultants would love to talk to you about your estate and legacy-planning needs. Whether you’re starting from scratch, and need someone to walk with you through your entire legacy-planning journey, or you have a good idea of what you want to incorporate, let us know.
Want to work on your own preamble? We’d love to share some templates and examples of what clients have used in the past. Let us know what email address we can send them to below.
About the Author: Christy Boysen serves as our COO and has a background in higher education, marketing, and event management. She brings oodles of business sense, leadership, and a winsome personality to the team. Christy’s professional degrees include a B.A. in Psychology, B.A. in Communication, and M.A. in Higher Education.