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Non-Financial Legacy Planning

This is a powerful article about Non-Financial Legacy Planning by  Gary Williams.  I hope you take a minute to read it.



Whenever I mention legacy planning to clients, they usually assume that I’m talking about their estate. It’s true that estate planning is an important part of planning one’s legacy. However, there is more to your legacy than just money. Far too often, individuals fail to consider the non-financial aspects of their legacy. The truth is that those non-financial items may have a much greater impact on one’s heirs than any inheritance could ever have.

What is non-financial legacy planning?

Simply put, the non-financial components of your legacy are things that you value, but that you can’t necessarily place a value on. They could include morals, ethics, words of wisdom and even memories. These non-financial items and ideas can have a profound effect on heirs. Unfortunately, they’re not commonly considered as part of traditional legacy planning.

That hasn’t always been the case. Dating back thousands of years, a document called an “ethical will” has been used in both Christian and Jewish cultures. An ethical will is a document that allows you to give a part of yourself to your family, friends, and other loved ones after your are gone. It could impart final messages of love, your hope for their future, or any advice that you wish to pass along.

When I suggest the idea of an ethical will to my clients, many don’t know where to begin. A good starting point is considering how you’d like to be remembered. Do you want to be remembered for your philanthropy and community involvement? Do you want to be remembered for your fun loving nature? Perhaps you’d simply like to be remembered as a loving family member and friend?

Regardless of what you choose, considering that question will give you a baseline of thought for considering more specific areas. Another consideration could be your values and morals. Your ethical will is your last opportunity to pass on your values to your descendants. If you could only communicate with them one more time, what values would you impart? What priorities would you encourage them to hold dear?

You may also want to share some of your proudest moments and accomplishments. Think about how valuable it would be to know what your great-grandfather or great-grandmother accomplished during their lifetime. Non-financial legacy planning gives you the opportunity to pass that information along to your own descendants. Perhaps your accomplishments can inspire them to great things.

How does one create a non-financial legacy plan?

The great thing about non-financial legacy planning is that it’s not governed by the same laws and regulations that control traditional estate planning. There are no required documents or legal statutes. You can be as creative as you’d like.

I often advise my clients to keep it simple. I’ve heard numerous people tell me that they’d like to make DVD’s for their kids and grandkids to watch. Ask yourself, though, if it’s likely that people will be using DVD’s in 100 years, let alone 30. That would be like people watching VHS tapes today. It doesn’t happen.

However, it’s likely that people will still read letters and books, will still look at photographs, and will still visit websites. You could write letters to those who are important to you and include pictures. You could create a book for your family and friends to share. You could even launch a simple website that includes your thoughts, memories, photos, and videos.

I discuss non-financial legacy planning in my new book, The Art of Retirement. In the book, I also offer resources and tools you can use to help shape your legacy. Purchase your copy today!


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