All of our clients, and people who’ve attended my public lectures, know that I am a great believer in ‘Legacy Planning.’ As a lawyer, I know that good Legacy Planning avoids serious (and often predictable) legal disputes, and the ugly nightmare of a family needing to resort to ‘the assistance of the courts.’ As a family person, I know that Legacy Planning ‘is really what it’s all about.’
Generally speaking, ‘estate planning’ is what the lawyer contributes to the client’s goal of being a ‘good steward’ for his or her family, and ‘Legacy Planning’ is what the client contributes to this process. Of course, a good lawyer will make sure that all of your legal, technical and tax matters have been taken care of. But a good lawyer will also ask the hard questions (when needed) and offer the tools and advice that the client can use, in order to keep family cohesion, and a values-based heritage across generations. Very often, even close families experience serious ‘unraveling,’ when a deeply emotional family crisis is prolonged because of ‘estate matters.’
There are dozens of ways to do Legacy Planning.
For example, one of the simplest Legacy Planning techniques that you can do, is to prepare your Legacy Statement for your loved-ones. The Legacy Statement is an expression of your ‘wishes, testament and special instructions’ to your family. It is usually a brief, written statement. But some Legacy Statements have been several pages long. It may be contained within your Last Will & Testament, but in many cases it will be a personal letter that is placed at the very top of your Estate Planning Portfolio. Some clients will prepare a Legacy Statement entirely on their own, and some clients have asked us to help them with the first drafts.
A Legacy Statement might be as simple as this:
To our dear son and daughter,
If you are reading this letter, it is because we have passed on to the next life. We are so sorry that we will not be there to see you grow into manhood and womanhood, but please always know that we are very proud of you, and that we love you very much.
Uncle Ron will be the trustee of your inheritance, until you have completed your education, and until you have shown him that you are truly responsible adults (or until you have reached the age of 30). We want you to respect this choice we have made for your trustee, to respect Uncle Ron’s decisions in the years to come, and to seek his advice and support, as you would have sought our advice and support.
We want you to finish your educations, and always to do the right thing. May you live in peace, and someday have beautiful children of your own.
Love, Mom and Dad