By Clay Zachry, CFP®

As we’ve covered in a previous blog post, creating an estate plan to address the inevitable can be an emotionally exhausting process for any family. To make things even more challenging, estate planning mainly focuses on the legal disposition of assets and is often only part of a larger legacy plan that can include much more.

Here are some eye-opening statistics about legacy and estate planning:

So, what is involved in creating a lasting legacy? It often includes passing down values and life lessons, instructions and wishes, financial assets and real estate, and personal possessions of emotional value or special significance.

While financial assets, real estate, and personal possessions are typically included in a traditional estate plan, passing on values and life lessons can present a significant challenge to many.

HowtoLeaveaLastingLegacyforYourFamily-Grandfather with Baby

Here are some tips on how to create a comprehensive and meaningful legacy:

Leaving a Personal Legacy that Aligns with Specific Values

When thinking about a legacy loved ones will endear, it can be beneficial to take into consideration not only possessions and final instructions, but also memories, life lessons, and values.

Some of this legacy planning can be relatively informal — like passing down life lessons and personal values through regular, everyday interactions with children, grandchildren, and loved ones. Such interactions may include meals together, visits, family outings, vacations, walks in the park, or just about any activity or venue imaginable. The key is being deliberate in what to convey and creating as many “moments” as possible to convey them. A more formal approach may include communicating memories, life lessons, and personal values:

  1. In writing: Through some combination of a diary, letters, or even a self-published book;
  2. Verbally: Via recorded interviews or conversations with loved ones, similar to NPR’s “StoryCorps” initiative; and
  3. At meetings: Family meetings and/or retreats with family or third-party facilitators can provide the time and structure to effectively deliver multigenerational messages.

Every family is unique, and with a bit of creativity, just about anyone can develop a strategy to deliver important messages to loved ones in their own style and on their own timeline.

Of course, a personal legacy also requires legal documents, including making sure wishes are fulfilled at end-of-life with a health care directive and living will. Additionally, executors should be given detailed instructions in advance on preferences regarding funeral arrangements and memorial services. Grim, yes, but nothing tarnishes a personal legacy more than unnecessary confusion during a time of mourning.

Leaving a Financial Legacy

Legacy planning also involves defining a financial legacy for loved ones through estate planning. This includes gifting items of financial value (such as jewelry, heirlooms, or art), real estate (current residence, second home, and any vacation properties), and financial assets (savings, investments, and retirement accounts). Donating to charities or important causes can also be incorporated into an estate plan. A visit to an experienced estate planning attorney will ensure intentions are effectively communicated from a legal perspective and that everything is in order.

Leave a Lasting Legacy with the Help of Harris Financial Advisors

Legacy planning requires careful, detailed planning and advice from an experienced financial advisor. At Harris Financial Advisors, we can help you create a comprehensive, thoughtful legacy that ensures your memories, life lessons, and core values benefit future generations. Contact us today to start your legacy plan.