Leaving a Legacy? Expand What That Means

10.29.18Your legacy is far richer than your assets and possessions. Planning to pass on a legacy to your family becomes more rewarding, when it includes non-tangibles, like values and treasured family stories.

Who wants to think about death, dying and bank accounts? Not too many people do. That’s why so many of us tend to put off creating or updating our wills. However, taking a different approach, breaking up the task into four key components, and including more than the assets you’ve accumulated over a lifetime can make planning your personal legacy rewarding. The Street’s recent article, “Planning Your Legacy: More Than Just Finances,” explains how this works.

Pillar 1: Values and Life Lessons.  People can forget to provide for some of the most valuable gifts that can be passed on to the next generation of family members, which are experiences and memories. Your years of life encounters have given you a wealth of life lessons and knowledge you can pass on to your heirs. Document your memories, relationships, and any important lessons you want to preserve.

Pillar 2: Instructions and Wishes to be Fulfilled. Engage an estate planning attorney to be certain that the necessary legal documents are in place to carry out your instructions and wishes. This includes a living will and healthcare directive, as well as powers of attorney. These will make your wishes known and grant the authority to a trusted agent to have your instructions performed.

Pillar 3: Personal Possessions of Emotional Value. Items associated with the loved one can create the most conflict among family members. To preserve harmony, you should plan ahead by considering which items may have personal importance and special meaning.  You should then speak to the other family members to see which items have a special meaning for each of them. These discussions, at an early stage of the process, can make it easier to decide the best way to distribute your meaningful possessions.

Pillar 4: Financial Assets and Real Estate. The final pillar focuses on the financial aspects. Work with an attorney and divide it into three areas. First, look at items of financial value and inventory high-value items like art, antiques, and jewelry and determine what will happen to them.  You should next consider your residence(s) and other real estate. The final step is to evaluate all of your financial assets, such as savings, investments and retirement accounts, as well as any trusts and insurance policies you may own.

There’s no way around the fact that planning your personal legacy is a big task to tackle.  However, try using this process. One thing is certain: once you have written down your wishes, shared your memories and done the hard work of planning for your family after you’re gone, you will feel a great sense of relief. It’s a gift you give to those you love, and that is invaluable.

Reference: The Street (September 19, 2018) “Planning Your Legacy: More Than Just Finances”

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