Legacy Planning is a process in which you set your own goals for your healthcare decisions, the care of your dependents, the distribution of your property, and the selection of people to carry out your goals in each of these areas. This may sound to you like estate planning (which is certainly a part of the results of the legacy plan), but legacy planning is more than estate planning.
When I sit with clients to discuss their legacy goals, regardless of their successes or their estate sizes, clients talk about their lives – what they have learned in their journey, what they want to teach their children and grandchildren, and what keeps them up at night. In my experience, most clients desire two things – to maintain family harmony and to create a plan with a smooth and simplified process to alleviate any burden for those in charge of carrying out their plan. Their goal to maintain family harmony starts now. They want to create a plan for their family that does not create division now. They want to create a plan that they can openly discuss with their family members that treats everyone fair and considers the individual characteristics of each person. They want a plan that is an extension of who they are as parents, as grandparents, as brothers/sisters, as sons/daughters, as uncles/aunts, etc. They want a plan that is consistent with their values, their beliefs, their lessons learned, and their hopes for the next generation. They want a plan that offers protection for their loved one from their fears and concerns. They want to leave a legacy.
When I think about leaving my own legacy, I think of my grandmother. She was a woman who loved to dress up and wear beautiful jewelry. I often would go and visit her and “forget” my earrings because I knew that Grandma would share her jewelry with me, and it would be so much prettier than what I had in my jewelry box. When my grandmother was 85 years old her heart failed, and she needed a pacemaker. After that medical emergency, she started a letter to our family in a spiral notebook. Over the next five years of her life, she wrote to us in all of her wisdom about her faith, her family, her expectations and her hope for all of us. When she died at the age of 90, we sat together in my parents kitchen and read aloud her letter. We laughed, we cried, we all guessed who was the favorite child (she had five) and grandchild (she had 16). Months later, we divided up the jewelry. No one fought and no one was left out. Her letter was our guide. Her letter (not the jewelry) was her legacy. There are so many things that my grandmother has done to shape my life, but the one that I am most grateful for is the lesson of how impactful a legacy can be.