Family lends us a strong sense of identity. So it makes sense that traditional legacy planning focuses on this area of our life and the financial resources we want to leave to our loved ones. However, the best legacy plans also focus on the here and now – how you have structured your life to make it clear to your family what your values are. The life lessons you have communicated to them. The traditions that will live on for generation after generation.
Here are four ideas to help you live your legacy – starting right now.
1. Find work-life balance
The struggle is real. Even wildly successful people – Garth Brooks, for example – have expressed regret about choosing work over spending time with their families. Brooks took a 14-year break from his music career to raise his children, telling People, “I knew their sweet faces and their dispositions. But I didn’t know who they were.” In the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” this regret occupies the number two spot.
If this resonates with you, consider ways to free up some quality time for your loved ones. Long commute? Maybe it’s time to move or try a bit of telecommuting. Weekends spent on chores? Try hiring a house cleaner or have groceries delivered. Research shows that spending money on time-saving services predicts greater happiness because it forces people to manage their time better. Also, being mindful about how you spend your time can set an example for others.
2. Plan for the unexpected
More than 45% of U.S. adults don’t have life insurance, according to a 2020 study conducted in part by the trade group LIMRA. This and other conventional estate planning concerns are part of living your legacy, knowing your preparation sets precedent for your loved ones.
An estate plan is also your opportunity to make a deliberate choice about the future, rather than settling for whatever may come. For example, you can use it as a learning tool for money management, structuring a trust that specifies exactly how an inheritance should be used, whether for retirement, education or some other purpose. When you create such a plan, it allows your voice – and your values – to be heard.
3. Communicate your vision with an ethical will
Think of this as a family love letter, passing on your personal lessons and your vision for the family’s future – either shared now, or as part of your memorial. “Putting together an ethical will early on helps you live life with more intention,” says Barry Baines, author of “Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper.” This document can also add context to your legal will, potentially preventing conflict among heirs, which lawyers and advisors say is a growing problem. Disputes over inheritance are happening “way more in the last few years than in the decades before,” Bernard Krooks, an estate lawyer in New York, told Kiplinger.
4. Express your feelings and values
This is another area that can trigger regret if neglected. You can do this with words: “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.” Or you can do it with your resources, setting aside money for education in a 529 plan or making family memories in a vacation home. Most parents say saving for college is particularly important, but a 2018 survey from Student Loan Hero reveals that 44% wish they had saved more.
Live life with intention, not regrets. Your advisor can help you create a living legacy that prioritizes caring for and guiding the people you love and honors what matters most to you. Now and in the decades to come.
Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.