Creating a comprehensive estate plan is something that everyone should do. Why stop there though? While you are developing your estate plan, why not incorporate strategies and tools into the plan that will also serve to preserve your legacy? While your tangible assets may reflect the amount of success you had while alive, your legacy reflects who you really were while alive. Your legacy includes your beliefs, your values, and even your hopes and dreams. With thoughtful planning you can include legacy planning in your estate plan to ensure that your legacy is preserved for future generations.
Deciding who will receive the funds in your bank account or who to leave your home to are relatively easy decisions when compared to figuring out how to actually influence future generations about how to use the gifts you leave them. Creating your estate plan, therefore, is only the beginning. Incorporating your legacy into your estate plan is the next, and much more important, step for many people. If you leave a grandchild $100,000 for example, how can you influence the way that child spends the money? How can you pass down your core values and beliefs to your grandchild? Of course you will try and share those things with your loved ones while you are here; however, there are also ways to continue to share them and preserve your legacy after you are gone.
You can start with the bequests in your Last Will and Testament. Along with any general gifts, take the time to leave specific bequests that have meaning behind them. A family heirloom or a favorite book, for instance, can pass on your values to a loved one. In addition, take the time to create a letter of instructions. Although a letter of instructions is not legally binding on your beneficiaries, it is your opportunity to explain why you gave someone a specific gift or to express your hopes and wishes for how a beneficiary will use a gift.
If you want to have a more definitive impact on future generations, creating a trust may be the answer. Using trust terms that you create you can preserve your legacy by directly controlling how the trust assets are used. For example, if have believe strongly in the entrepreneurial spirit you could include trust terms that allow trust funds to be used for a beneficiary to start a business. Charitable gifting is another way to directly preserve your legacy by leaving a gift to a charity or non-profit organization that relates to your beliefs and values.
By working closely with your estate planning attorney you can incorporate strategies into your estate plan that also allow you to preserve your legacy.