During the holiday season many of us find ourselves spending extra time with our families and close friends. Whether you spend your time together laughing about the years past, playing games, or watching a favorite holiday movie, this time of year is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the legacy you wish to leave.
It seems natural to talk about estate planning in the context of a written series of documents that will help guide your beneficiaries to best care for your assets after you have passed away. But so often it can be easy to miss the discussion about your personal and relational desires with those closest to you. You may assume that the personal and relational issues will take care of themselves, but in reality not addressing them can cause undue emotional stress, misunderstandings and family conflict. Fortunately, with a little planning and open communication, you have the opportunity to leave behind peace and clarity for those you love.
When talking about the word “legacy”, you might think of the financial matters which will be left behind. However, a legacy is deeper than a dollar amount in your account. What memories, values and stories do you wish to leave with your family? What impact do I want my life to have on future generations? By broadening the definition of the word “legacy” you can then be intentional on how you communicate your legacy goals to your family.
Before you open the conversation with those closest with you, ask yourself a few questions:
- When I am gone, what would I like people to say about the way I lived my life?
- What would I want future generations to remember about me?
- What qualities would I want people to say I possessed?
For example, if you want your family to say you were generous, does your current will reflect this? If not, provide an explanation to your family regarding your intentions. When your estate plan is not consistent with your values it can cause unnecessary family conflict. Providing an explanation will clear up any muddied feelings and help settle any misunderstandings.
After taking time to figure out the legacy you wish to leave, make sure your estate documents are consistent with your message. Not only addressing your wishes for financial assets, it is wise to consider a plan for items that hold sentimental value.
You may have a treasured collection that you wish to divide amongst your children unevenly or an item that you wish for family members to share. Having a conversation about these wishes before you have passed away will ease potential tension between siblings. Initial conversations will present a valuable opportunity for each family member to express their sentiments about the heirlooms.
Lastly, it is important to not only have these conversations, but to also write them down as a part of your estate plan. Not only talking about your personal legacy and any financial inheritances, but also your desires for care. Share your wishes for assisted living or receiving in home care. Answer questions from your family in order for them to fully understand your desires. Clearing up any misunderstandings in advance, and verbally will help your family work as a team to fulfill your desires.
As you gather with your loved ones this holiday season we hope your conversations about legacy are fruitful and leave your family excited to help carry on your legacy.