A legacy is a gift of money or property left to someone in your will. It can also be something more intangible like memories, stories, or advice you want to pass on. Legacy planning is about how you want to make that legacy better for the people who are reading it after your death.
It is a process that helps you think through your legacy and how you want it to be remembered after death. A legacy plan encompasses everything from your last will and testament, which governs what happens to your assets after you die, to naming a legacy charity as the beneficiary of an IRA or other financial account.
Estate Planning vs Legacy Planning
Estate planning is different from legacy planning. Estate planning focuses on how to distribute your assets after you die. A legacy plan also addresses asset distribution, but it also considers what memories or lessons are most important to pass on.
Why Do People Create Legacy Plans?
People create legacy plans to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from their legacy. A legacy plan can be as simple as leaving your dog to a friend or as involved as creating a legacy trust. Your legacy plan could include:
- Verbal legacies, such as stories you want to pass on
- Tangible items, such as personal keepsakes and family heirlooms you want to leave behind
- Money or property you want to give as a legacy
- How you would like your legacy assets to be distributed upon your death
Why Do People Choose to Create a Legacy Plan?
Legacy planning is not just for the rich and famous. It’s a smart choice for anyone who wants to pass on their legacy to future generations. If you’re not sure how to create your legacy plan, consider the following:
- Have you named any legacy recipients? How are those people related to you? Why do you want to leave legacy assets to them?
- Do you have any legacy items that hold special meaning for you? What are they, and why are they important to you?
- How will your legacy be remembered by future generations? Consider legacy recipients’ ages when creating your plan.
The Importance of Having an Up-to-Date Will
Having a will is the first step toward legacy planning. However, without proper estate planning, your heirs could run into numerous legal and financial problems down the road, such as:
- Conflicts of interest among heirs
- Lack of specific legacy instructions, which could lead to infighting among heirs
- Accidental disinheritance of intended legacy beneficiaries. If you forget to include someone in your will or trust, that person won’t receive any legacy assets after your death.
- Liability for estate taxes. You can pass along legacy assets without triggering any estate taxes, but you need to get the timing right.
How to Make Your Own Legacy Plan
Legacy planning can be complex, especially if your legacy is particularly large or complicated. You may want to work with a lawyer who specializes in legacy planning to ensure that your legacy plan is legally sound and reflects your wishes. Legacy planning can be as simple or involved as you want it to be. However, the more effort you put into creating a legacy for future generations, the more meaningful your legacy will be for those who inherit it.
The Bottom Line
Legacy planning can be as simple as writing down a legacy letter outlining your legacy wishes to the grandkids, or as involved as creating a legacy trust. The more effort you put into creating a legacy plan, the better off future generations will be.
About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.
True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.