Legacy Contributed by: Sherri J. Holder, Firm Manager
What comes to mind when you hear the word legacy? As an elder law firm, you’d probably expect us to say that legacy means an inheritance in the form of money or real property left through a Will. While the Book of Proverbs would agree with that definition, we think a legacy is much more intricate than that. Yet, the context of biblical stories is relevant to how we think and plan for our children and their children.
In the days of Moses, heritage was treasured and usually passed to sons. For daughters or women to inherit they had to petition for their birthright or patrimony. In one passage, a Shunammite woman relied on the king’s support of her plea to return her land and possessions after the seven-year famine. Not only did he grant her what was her rightful inheritance, but he also increased it because of the extraordinary work she’d done during her life. Because of her living legacy, she was then able to bequest to her son earthly things and goodness.
Blessedly, we aren’t living in the age of the Old Testament where appeals to the king are required to leave a legacy. Today, men and women alike can choose how they want to live and what they wish to leave behind. And as definitions go, living and leaving go hand in hand when it comes to exploring legacy.
To build or create something that will benefit others, you need to have an end goal in mind. What contribution do you want to make? What is it that you want to live on when you are no longer here? For some, it may be that you want to spread knowledge to underserved communities or make improvements to the planet by planting trees. For others, it may be that you want your labor to benefit future generations in a responsible way. No matter what your desire, results are built on single small actions.
When we meet with families, we ask them to tell us their goals. Too often, this is a surprise first step to them and sometimes it takes a little nudge on our part to get the conversation going. However, the answer is fundamental to creating a plan that will honor their life and legacy. Consider a person that wishes to leave assets to a child with special needs but has concerns about their ability to manage assets or the potential need for government benefits in the future. A Will alone isn’t going to do the job.
So, of course we translate the legal meaning of the word legacy as something handed down, usually money or property, through a good estate plan, but on a higher level we believe legacy is a life that reflects all that we hold dear.
Having clarity on what you want your legacy to be can give you meaning and purpose. In our practice, legacy is rooted in decades of learning and sharing our knowledge with the communities we live in and serve.