Posted by:  The Life and Legacy Planning Group

You come into the world a blank slate, and as you grow, you gain wisdom. You’ve planned your estate to leave physical assets to beneficiaries, so now think about leaving them something that’s just as important but less tangible: the hard-won wisdom you’ve accumulated over your life. Let your family and friends learn from your mistakes, and profit from your successes. In other words, don’t just leave an inheritance, leave a legacy.

Legacy Letter
There are various options for capturing your legacy. You may opt to write a Legacy Letter. You can choose to write a Legacy Letter that includes a discussion of how to utilize wealth for meaning and impact, and how to purposefully account for family values and closely-held beliefs. You can impart wisdom to heirs, and guide inherited assets. Such a letter can change the focus from money, material items and legal documents to creating roots and establishing a family narrative. In composing your Legacy Letter, you should spend time thinking about how you would like to positively impact and influence the future generations of your family in ways that extend beyond monetary wealth.

Video Supporting Your Estate Plan
Another option is to create a Legacy Video. Video Trusts and Wills aren’t legally binding since the law requires that estate planning documents be in written form, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a video regarding your estate plan as an adjunct to the written documents that make up that plan, and include the same issues as are discussed above. Also, suppose you left art, jewelry or other valuables to specific family members or friends. You might want to explain why you chose to leave particular items to particular individuals and perhaps share what those items mean to you on the video.

And of course, you can (and should!) create a personal video that has nothing to do with a Will. If you have a family video collection, consider making a new video including favorite snippets and commenting on the earlier days. Time gives you perspective and appreciation, and those gifts are priceless. The memories and meaning that these videos have can be memorialized for generations to come. Family history may become lost over time, so include important details from you past and from your family’s past that may not otherwise be memorialized.

The Old-Fashioned Way
Scrapbooking is a time-honored pastime that’s recently experienced a renaissance. Pass on journals, photos, newspaper clippings and other ephemera via scrapbooks or albums. You can leave specially constructed letters inside for your family and loved ones. While only one family member can have the physical scrapbook at any one time, digital scrapbooking tools are fast-evolving and now allow you to create either a digital version or multiple print copies so that all your loved ones can share your life and thoughts.

Charitable Planning
Many of us have a favorite charity and cause we supported during life. Estate planning offers many opportunities to continue to support these organizations via planned charitable giving, both during your lifetime and after your death. An estate planning attorney can discuss charitable planning options best suited to your situation. Two examples are the Charitable Lead Trust which can provide an immediate charitable gift and the Charitable Remainder Trust which can support a loved one (or you) for a period of time with money eventually going to your chosen charity. Leaving some of your estate to charity shows the next generation what mattered to you, and it encourages them to follow in your footsteps.

While your heirs may not choose to fund the same organizations, you are setting an example of the importance of financially supporting charities close to your heart.

Business Succession Planning
If you own your company, business succession planning is crucial. Formal business succession planning, however, is just as important as your personal estate planning. It can make the difference between success and failure of a company, and the financial future of your family. But along with proper succession planning, a written statement or video to your board or employees helps enshrine your business’ mission, values, and tradition.

Leave a History
When you’re bequeathing antiques, art, jewelry and the like, leave the beneficiary a history of the piece and why it was important to you. If it’s a family heirloom, write down to whom it has passed, from generation to generation. It’s possible the family ties outweigh the actual value of the item. Sharing these stories will make a family heirloom cherished all the more.

Regardless of how you’re leaving your memories and the meaning behind them to the next generation, you want to make sure that your family avoids unnecessary hassle and expense. Contact us today to discuss how we can implement a plan to leave the wisdom and wealth you’ve accumulated to your loved ones.