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Plan a thoughtful legacy that lives on

Small clock icon 3 minute read

Mature woman crafting a clay pot in her studio.

When you look in the rear-view mirror, what do you see? Is it really just your property or investment decisions that define you or your life and how you want to be remembered? What about the knowledge and wisdom you accumulated? The hobbies or interests you are passionate about? The causes you have supported and championed?

While financial assets may reflect how hard you worked and investment decisions you made, these things paint a much richer picture of you, your values and the way you lived your life.

Every sound financial plan contains an estate plan, a set of legal documents that capture your wishes for how your financial assets and wealth should be distributed after your death. Legacy planning also considers less tangible—but just as valuable—parts of your life.

When thinking about and discussing your legacy, it can help to break your planning into sections that fit together to build a complete, integrated legacy plan.

Financial assets

This is fairly straightforward. You have savings, investments, property and other wealth and assets you won’t be taking with you when you’re gone. Wealth transfer planning lets you distribute these to descendants, other family members, close friends or wherever you think they will do the most good and have the most impact.

You have options to begin distributing this wealth before your death, which can help you maximize what beneficiaries receive. This makes it important to starting planning early.

Family matters

If you know you will have a wealth legacy, your family will obviously be uppermost in your mind when planning it. You’ll want your wealth to go where it can make a real difference in their lives, so it’s worth considering involving family members in your planning. While you will have ideas about their needs or wants, they may have goals or challenges you don’t know about.

Sit down with family early to discuss future plans, your thoughts and how family dynamics will work. One idea is to turn this part of your planning into a “legacy project” that focuses on the less tangible things you want to pass on and be remembered for. This could include:

  • Personal legacy letters from you to family and friends containing words of wisdom, advice, encouragement and anything else you want to say to them
  • An “Ethical Will”—a non-legal document that passes on any values, experiences and life lessons you consider important to your family
  • A carefully curated treasure box containing mementos, photographs and other meaningful items you have gathered over the years
  • Audio or video recordings containing personal messages or insights. You could even channel your inner Steven Spielburg and capture your life story in a short movie.

Community impact

Your legacy is also a chance to leave your mark, or continue to leave your mark, on the world. You can give back to a local community organization you volunteered with or that inspired you, or make a contribution to society as a whole through a gift to a national or global charity. You can also involve your family in your charitable legacy planning. What causes do they care about? How can you help your family continue to make a difference?

No one really wants to think about or discuss their own death. However, taking a more holistic look at how you want to be remembered, and what impact you can continue to have on society as well as any dependents, can be a surprisingly positive experience.

It’s never too early to begin planning your legacy. Talking to a financial advisor can help you navigate your options.