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Like the businessperson who financed the new hospital wing or charity worker who devoted his life to building health clinics in a third-world country, each of us has the opportunity to leave a legacy. Similarly, each of us has the opportunity to create a legacy to benefit our family or society. It does not have to be a grandiose pursuit. By engaging in legacy planning, we get to have a say in how we will be remembered. What’s required is dedication to help make life a little bit better and some advance planning.
Legacy stems from the Latin “lēgāre,” meaning to bequeath, pass on or entrust something in the hands of another -- a dignified gesture which has come to mean making a lasting contribution of more than monetary value.
Most people think of legacy planning as gifts left by their parents, such as the family business, the house they grew up in or other prized possessions. But the gifts you value most usually can’t be measured in dollars, such as a work ethic, a sense of family responsibility or generosity and community spirit. These are the gifts we hope to pass to our children. This is the type of legacy that can truly make the difference in how our own children experience wealth.
People often have different feelings about wealth. What took one generation years to achieve may seem trivial to the next. Consider the successful business person who never had the chance to attend college. She may wish to help someone else realize that dream or may never want her own grandchildren to have to make that same sacrifice. One of the first steps in creating your legacy is to express your feelings about wealth and its responsibilities well in advance and make your goals known.
To appropriately plan your legacy, establish a sound plan that identifies objectives and family philosophy. Communicate your values and desires to your family and build a team to help implement and monitor your plan.
Involving a financial advisor can help everyone understand you’re serious about your legacy planning and that you’ll take the necessary steps to formalize your plan which will almost always have financial as well as benevolent ramifications.
A well-structured estate plan should be your first step. This not only takes into account the values and beliefs you hope to pass on but a range of potential tax concerns, gifting, and charitable-giving guidelines, trust and family-foundation considerations. Having a financial advisor structure and manage these aspects can release much of the anxiety that goes into this process and helps ensure that your wishes are honored.