4 Smart Ways to Leave a Legacy

Give to charity Another way to leave a legacy is by contributing money or the equivalent to a charitable cause that reflects your values.

You could create a meaningful gifting plan so your kids and grandkids will receive money while you’re alive, allowing you to watch them benefit from your generosity.

Wealthier people can create a charitable foundation or a trust that provides ongoing distributions, so the gift has more lasting value.

For example, you can endow a scholarship to your alma mater for future students. Most colleges have development offices to help you set up this program. Many require at least $25,000 for an ongoing trust, but that money doesn’t have to go to the school right away; it can be left in your will.

You might also work with a charity or college to design an annuity in which the institution is designated as the beneficiary when you die but pays you interest during your lifetime. You’ll get a tax credit for some of the donation, too.

Check with your tax and financial advisers for the most appropriate ways to accomplish your charitable goals.

Write a legacy letter Think about everything you’d want to tell your loved ones and your survivors if you knew you didn’t have long to live then put it all in a letter to them.

I’m not talking about the kinds of things you want the executor of your will to know such as your funeral and memorial wishes, your Social Security number, where your financial accounts are held and your digital passwords. (For advice on these things, see the Next Avenue articles “9 Ways to Make Things Easier for Your Survivors” and “5 Steps to Creating Your Digital Estate Plan.”)

No, your legacy letter is a way to speak directly to your loved ones and say all those things you wish you had told them earlier. Tell your grandson how much it meant to you to be at his birth and how sad you are that you won’t be able to watch him grow.

This letter can be a way to ensure your spouse or partner knows how much joy your relationship brought and that you hope he or she will find happiness after you’re gone.

Prepare an ethical will An ethical will is the logical extension of a legacy letter. With an origin going back to centuries of elders orally conveying their values to the next generation, an ethical will lets you share the meaning of your life, beliefs and life lessons.

There are no strict rules governing an ethical will because it’s a nonbinding document. Unlike a traditional last will and testament, an ethical will doesn’t lay out who will receive your possessions. You can, however, use it to explain why certain possessions will go to specific people.

It can be done in writing, as an aural recording or on video. You might want to make a kind of scrapbook, with pictures and anecdotes annotating them. For example, the note next to the picture of your daughter graduating from college could say something like:

With Julia at her graduation. It was at that moment, Julia, that my heart overflowed with joy. I saw then how good you felt about yourself after all your hard work. The “Thanks, Dad” meant so much to me, more than you could ever imagine.

An ethical will is your way of telling your personal story, tying together what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve lived your life and what you hope your heirs will take from you.

It’s your way of still being in the room, which is the point of leaving a legacy.


(Source: 4 Smart Ways to Leave a Legacy)