It’s important to put some thought into how you want to be remembered…
Most Hoosiers look at estate planning as a way to minimize their tax obligations and ensure their finances are in order. The one part of estate planning that is often overlooked is that it provides an opportunity for one to leave a positive legacy. As an elder law attorney, I frequently talk with my clients about their wishes for how they want to be remembered after they are gone. Leaving a positive legacy is something my clients increasingly tell me they want.
More and more of us are thinking about end-of-life issues because of the coronavirus pandemic. As an elder law attorney, I encourage Hoosiers to take positive steps that ensure their care wishes are spelled out and protect their resources for the future. That’s the best way to ensure a positive legacy.
What is a legacy?
A positive legacy means different things to different people. Americans were asked in a survey, “What is most important to you when leaving a legacy?”
• 94 percent say, “Having friends and family that love me.”
• 75 percent say, “Making a positive impact on society.”
• 10 percent say, “The accumulation of a lot of wealth.”
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to leaving a legacy, it is very personal. However, there are four key pillars of a legacy:
• Values and Life Lessons
• Instructions and Wishes
• Personal Possessions with Emotional Value
• Financial Assets and Real Estate
These can all be built upon to ensure we leave a positive legacy. A lot of that building can be done through legal documents which outline your legacy and fulfill it.
How do we build these pillars of legacy?
The first thing to do is easy! We just live our lives. We leave our legacy through our character, what kind of person we are and through our convictions, passions and what we believe in.
Keep a journal of the happenings in your life and share information about them with your family members. Share your failings and your triumphs. Share your hopes for how you want your family members to live their lives when you are gone. This Inner Wealth, your values and life lessons to pass on to others, includes your core beliefs and values, life experiences, mistakes, and family traditions.
Other ways to build the pillars of legacy include:
• Gifts by Last Will and Testament – Your legal document outlining distribution of assets and possessions.
• Legacy Letter – This is a letter written to a loved one outlining what you want them to know. It helps you say what you may not have already said to their faces. You can talk with your attorney about how you want this to work with your legal documents to establish your legacy.
• Ethical Will – spells out the meaning of your life, your beliefs, and your life lessons. Explains why you are doing what you are in your will and why you are distributing assets in this way. Ex.: I’m giving you these golf clubs because we spent many good hours on the course together. An Ethical Will can also explain why you are disinheriting someone.
• Living Will – This is an advance directive that outlines if you want life support or not and what exactly you want in the dying process.
• Contributions to Charity – Giving some of your assets to charity will make it clear what was important to you.
• Living trusts and Irrevocable Asset Protection Trusts – Trusts provide a way to protect your assets and establish your financial legacy. They often outline how funds should be distributed. There are various types of trusts depending on your needs. Talk to your attorney as soon as possible to determine what type of trust you might need.
The most important part of leaving a positive legacy is to have an up-to-date estate plan. Clients often think that they must be rich to consider estate planning. Not true! Without your own plan, the State of Indiana will control how any assets you have are distributed after you pass away.
Don’t let fear of the future or of death stop you from acting. It’s important to put some thought into how you want to be remembered and what you really want your life to mean. The power to leave a positive legacy that you are proud of is in your hands. Contact an elder law attorney and put the documents in place to make your wishes a reality.
Guest Blog by Lisa Dillman – Attorney
Lisa Dillman is an attorney at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law. The firm specializes in elder law and Life Care Planning. The firm has offices in Indianapolis, Carmel and Zionsville.
Applegate & Dillman Law Group, Storen Financial and LPL Financial are separate entities.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.