Don't Keep Your Legacy a Secret

Does Your Family Understand Your Wishes?

The content of our wills is not something we typically discuss with friends in social settings—or even at home around our families. But making the effort now to communicate openly with loved ones about your future plans will give your family clarity and greater peace of mind.

The phrase “estate planning” brings to mind legal documents like wills and financial considerations like estate taxes. But there is also a more personal side of your planning that deserves your attention: the legacy you will leave for future generations.

What Is a Legacy?

A legacy is more than the financial inheritance that you leave for the important people in your life. In a broader sense, it’s about the essence of who you are that extends into the future—the good that you leave behind. It’s your gift to the world.

Your values, along with the care and concern you show others, shape what you pass on to the next generation. Often, people who make the greatest impact share a commitment to serving a cause greater than their own.

But sometimes our good intentions can get lost in translation. A little planning and open communication now can prevent misunderstandings and leave behind peace, clarity and order for your family. Follow these three steps to ensure that you are remembered the way you want to be.

Step 1:

Summarize how you want to be remembered. The following questions may help you articulate your goals:

  • What would you like people to say about the way you lived your life?

  • What would you want future generations to remember about you?

  • What qualities would you want people to say you possessed?

Step 2:

Prepare documents consistent with who you are. After answering the questions above, ask yourself if your estate planning documents reflect the legacy you want to leave. For example, do you want to be known for fairness but you plan to leave certain family heirlooms to one child over another or distribute your assets to your children unevenly?

Step 3:

Have open communication with loved ones. No plans are complete without honest conversations with your loved ones about your wishes. This includes your will and any charitable gifts that you have in your long-term plans. Being open in these conversations by sharing the reasons behind your decisions will help avoid family discord.

Investing time now will give you peace of mind that your family understands the steps you’ve taken to ensure that your values live on.

Kelly Johannessen