We all want to be remembered, to feel that we’ve contributed something to the world. For some, this can be a driving force leading to great accomplishments and extraordinary contributions to mankind. But for most of us with more modest goals, what pushes us is the desire to leave a legacy.
Your legacy is putting your stamp on the future. It’s a way to make some meaning of your existence: “Yes, world of the future, I was here. Here’s my contribution, here’s why I hope my life mattered.”
There are many ways you can leave a legacy. The most obvious, of course, is bequesting an inheritance to your survivors through your last will and testament.
But your legacy is about far more than material things.
Your neice or nephew will be teaching their daughter or son how to make that family dish, and will flash back to the time you taught them that same technique. That’s also a legacy.
Most of what we leave our children and grandchildren are memories – of who we are and what mattered to us. We provide this legacy by being with our loved ones and through our relationships.
But you can do more than just serve as a good role model. You can take a more active approach to leaving a legacy. Here are four ways to do it:
Provide a family history Researching your genealogy is a wonderful way to let your kids and grandkids understand where you and they came from.
Track your brood with specialized genealogy websites, like Ancestry.com and Archives.gov. Then invite the next generation to add their branches of the family tree in the future.
Add your personal story to the genealogy record by including anecdotes and feelings. Describe your relationships with your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and children.
Doing this will enrich the bare facts and timeline, providing color so your heirs and survivors can know what it really felt like to live during your years. That’s a legacy no one else can provide.
Give to charity Another way to leave a legacy is by contributing money or the equivalent to a charitable cause that reflects your values.
You could create a meaningful gifting plan so your kids and grandkids will receive money while you’re alive, allowing you to watch them benefit from your generosity.
Wealthier people can create a charitable foundation or a trust that provides ongoing distributions, so the gift has more lasting value.
For example, you can endow a scholarship to your alma mater for future students. Most colleges have development offices to help you set up this program. Many require at least $25,000 for an ongoing trust, but that money doesn’t have to go to the school right away; it can be left in your will.
Write a legacy letter Think about everything you’d want to tell your loved ones and your survivors if you knew you didn’t have long to live then put it all in a letter to them.
I’m not talking about the kinds of things you want the executor of your will to know such as your funeral and memorial wishes, your Social Security number, where your financial accounts are held and your digital passwords. No, your legacy letter is a way to speak directly to your loved ones and say all those things you wish you had told them earlier. Tell your grandson how much it meant to you to be at his birth and how sad you are that you won’t be able to watch him grow.
This letter can be a way to ensure your spouse or partner knows how much joy your relationship brought and that you hope he or she will find happiness after you’re gone.
Prepare an ethical will An ethical will is the logical extension of a legacy letter. With an origin going back to centuries of elders orally conveying their values to the next generation, an ethical will lets you share the meaning of your life, beliefs and life lessons.
There are no strict rules governing an ethical will because it’s a nonbinding document. Unlike a traditional last will and testament, an ethical will doesn’t lay out who will receive your possessions. You can, however, use it to explain why certain possessions will go to specific people.
It can be done in writing, as an aural recording or on video. You might want to make a kind of scrapbook, with pictures and anecdotes annotating them. For example, the note next to the picture of your daughter graduating from college could say something like:
It’s your way of still being in the room, which is the point of leaving a legacy. With assistance in understanding the differences in a Last Will and Testament VS. a Trust contact me and we can go over the best options for you Legacy!