What Do You Want Your Legacy To Be?
Imagine what would happen to your family if you died unexpectedly. Even if you have a will and an estate plan in place, your spouse and children may feel rudderless without your guidance. They won’t be able to take advantage of what you might have taught them about financial matters or about life in general. And you’ll never have the chance to pass along the stories and memories that helped make you the person you are.
A process known as legacy planning could help you avoid that sad result. This isn’t about tangible items such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Instead, legacy planning encompasses your personal values, hopes, and expectations. It also touches on practical issues you may not have addressed with your family.
The concept of a legacy plan isn’t new. In fact, its roots can be traced back to the “ethical wills” used in biblical times. But legacy planning is often neglected today, to the detriment of family members who might benefit from your efforts. And while there’s no precise blueprint for what to do, these four steps could get you started.
1. Organize and update documents. Create a spreadsheet listing where you keep important papers and other items. These locations may range from a safe deposit box in which you store trust documents to the hook in the garage where you hang spare car keys. Make sure the list includes the names and contact information of your professional advisors and other important people.
2. Share your personal values and history. Spell out in writing your preferences regarding culture, religion, education, and other traditions. Impart any personal messages and inspirations you would like to pass along to a younger generation. If you’re especially diligent, you might even chronicle the main events of your life in a brief autobiography.
3. Document the details. Be as specific as you can be regarding your future wishes. For instance, you could leave detailed instructions regarding how to manage investments and other financial matters, funeral arrangements, and other related concerns. You might even include suggestions about how to care for a pet or run the household.
4. Live with a purpose. Going through this process will undoubtedly give you a new perspective, and may encourage you to find new ways to live your life to the fullest. For instance, you could create your own “bucket list” of things you’d like to accomplish during your lifetime and then start working your way through those experiences.
Keep in mind that a legacy plan is meant to complement—not replace—your existing estate plan, although the process of creating it might lead you to modify your will or other documents. We would be glad to help you coordinate these plans.
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