Legacy is often associated with the money left to people and institutions that have come to mean the most to us throughout our lives. But your legacy is so much more than that. It encapsulates your values, memories, wisdom, family history, and more that do not necessarily have a monetary value. The most valuable part of your legacy isn’t tangible, so how then, can you pass those on to future generations?
Begin by writing down, or making a recording of yourself sharing, stories about your parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Don’t simply talk about where they lived and what they did for a living. Try to convey a sense of who your family members were while they were alive, what was important to them in life, and the values they held dear.
Use this same approach when you sit down to tell your own story. Explain why you made certain decisions, what you learned from mistakes, how you achieved success, and what you would do differently if you had a chance to do it all again. We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to include photos that depict your history and that of other family members. You might even want to create a website featuring your stories and photos. You can go one step further and invite family members to contribute to it, and that way it is a living and breathing document that can grow with time.
Next, consider items that may not be worth much monetary value, but have a great deal of sentimental value: an old rocking chair cherished by your uncle, for instance, or the baking dish your mother used for many years. To avoid family disputes arising over items like these, if one of your children has shown interest in an object, you could specify in your will that he or she receives it when you pass away. Regarding sentimental objects that have not been “claimed” by your children, consider using an estate planning letter to designate the person you would like to inherit it, and why.
While there is no way to ensure with 100% certainty that your values will be passed on with specific items, there are some steps you can take to let your loved ones know how you feel. One approach is to use an Incentive Trust, an estate planning tool, to encourage certain behaviors while discouraging others. For example, your trust could reward your children for graduating from college, entering a certain profession, purchasing a home, or doing charitable work.
In the end, you may be surprised by how much your values, wisdom, and family history—the nonmaterial aspects of your legacy—mean to the people you love and future generations. For more on designing your estate plan and setting up your legacy, call the Deliberato Law Center at (216) 341-3413 or reach us via the contact form on our website.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at Deliberato Law Center