Preserving Family Traditions: How to Include Recipes in Your Estate Plan

Family recipes are more than just a list of ingredients and cooking instructions; they're a tangible link to your heritage, traditions, and the memories that make a family unique.  Whether I am making tuna noodle casserole with potato chips like my grandmother Ardys taught me, or wishing I had some homemade rhubard sauce from my grandma Mary who still lives in the Midwest, those vivid tastes and smells I will carry with me for the rest of my life!

While traditional estate planning often focuses on financial assets and real estate, more people are beginning to realize the value of passing down these culinary legacies. If you are wondering how you can incorporate family recipes into your estate plan, keep reading.

The Importance of Including Recipes

What are the recipes of your ancestors or relatives that you cherish?  The smell of Grandma's apple pie or the taste of Dad's famous barbecue sauce can instantly transport us back to cherished times. These recipes are emotional anchors and offer future generations a way to connect with their family history. Including them in your estate planning ensures they aren't lost to time, preserving both flavors and memories for years to come.

Methods to Include Recipes in Your Estate Planning

Last Will and Testament

The most formal method is to include a clause in your Last Will that bequeaths your recipe collection to a specific individual. This legally binding document will ensure that your recipes go exactly where you want them to after you've passed.


If you have a trust, a specific clause can be added to detail how recipes should be distributed amongst beneficiaries or held in trust until certain conditions are met.  In addition to being a bequest, it can also be a light hearted moment in an otherwise sterile document.

Ethical Will

An ethical will isn't a legally binding document but serves as a letter to your heirs, expressing your wishes, wisdom, and values. Perhaps it also details some tips and tricks you used in the kitchen over the years?  Here, you can emotionally articulate why these recipes and skills are important and who you hope will continue to use in the decades to come.

Letter of Instruction

A simple and informal letter of instruction can accompany your formal estate planning documents. This can offer step-by-step guidance for your executor, explaining where your recipes can be found and how you'd like them to be distributed. You can also ask that recipes be formalized or duplicated for generations of family members to receive.

Digital Archive

In today's digital age, creating a digital archive of your recipes makes them easily accessible and shareable. The instructions for accessing this digital vault can be included in your will or given to your estate's executor.  Perhaps a private family website or blog would allow multiple people access to your culinary creations. Provide the login details within your will or to your executor to ensure continuity.

Cookbook or Heirloom Recipe Box

If you prefer a tactile method, compile your recipes into a beautiful cookbook or recipe box. This can either be given as a living gift or bequeathed through your estate planning documents.

Audio/Video Instructions

For an even more intimate touch, record yourself making the dishes and explaining their significance. This multimedia approach adds a layer of connection that goes beyond the written word.

Your estate plan is more than just a roadmap for your financial assets; it’s a way to preserve and pass on your legacy. By thoughtfully including your treasured recipes, you can ensure that future generations not only know about their heritage but can taste it too.

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Emily R. Taylor is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of Arizona.  Emily Taylor practices in the areas of Special Needs Planning, Guardianships (and its alternatives), Estate Planning, and Special Needs Trusts.  The office of Emily R. Taylor, Attorney PLLC is located in Phoenix, Arizona.  Emily Taylor is available to consult on legal matters throughout the state of Arizona.

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