Most people think of estate planning as the process to deal with your “stuff” when you are gone. Estate planning attorneys certainly help their clients create legal documents such as wills and trusts to ensure their clients' wishes are honored and that assets are transferred to loved ones in a safe and straightforward way.
But that is just one piece of the puzzle. One part of a comprehensive estate plan that often goes overlooked is the opportunity to create your legacy.
What does it mean to leave a legacy? It's not about having libraries and hospitals named after you. Instead, it is about passing down your values or passing down wisdom that is designed to impact the next generation. In fact, there are great ways that you can help your family remember your values and beliefs that will cost you little or nothing.
A very thoughtful (and completely free) way to create your legacy is to write annual letters to your children and other important people in your life. These letters can be kept with your estate planning documents. Then, each person will have a special message from you sharing your feelings and thoughts.
The letters do not have to be held back until your death, either. Many people choose to present the letters to their children upon graduation or on their wedding days. Estate planning certainly deals with death, but it also gives us a reason to think about life and the way we want to live it.
Another way to create a legacy is to determine important causes in your life and then support them through your estate planning. Whether you are an avid contributor to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital or have a soft spot for a local animal shelter, these are the kinds of non-profits and charities you can support to ensure your values are represented in your planning.
Many nonprofit organizations will happily work with you to put together some kind of giving plan for your estate. There may be tax benefits, in addition to knowing that you are doing something important for the world.
An attorney can also help you with setting up a family trust that can be used to further causes that you or your loved ones are passionate about. This is a great way to build a legacy, not just for yourself, but for your entire family. If you are unsure of how or why you should set up a family trust to create your legacy, contact us to schedule an appointment.