Over the years I have had the opportunity to speak to many regarding their financial and estate plans. It is rarely an easy conversation, but it is often a necessary one. One of my observations is that estate planning is so much more than simply identifying executors and passing down wealth to future generations in a tax-efficient and fair manner. Sure, that is a key component; however, it often comes down to so much more than the money. It is often the impact on the lives and memories created through experiences, moments, emotions and lasting contributions to family, friends, and society.
What does it mean to leave a legacy?
Leaving money can be a linear way of securing a legacy, but the key for many is taking the time to reflect on the deeper and more relevant questions: What do you want your legacy to really be? How will you be remembered? What sort of long-lasting imprint will reflect the life you lived and the memory you left behind?
It isn’t about the money. I believe one of the most valuable gifts you can give those you care about is your time.
We all will likely agree we live in a fast-paced world. Carving out both a quantity and quality of time has become so important, but it isn’t always easy. Every family is different and has different dynamics. But you can try. It could be organizing family events, family trips or sitting down for morning coffee with real conversations that are engaging and relevant.
Creating your own unique legacy
I can share some of the ways we have embarked on this journey.
We decided long ago our grandchildren didn’t need designer clothing or another random toy. What they will need is some form of post-secondary education. We believe education is the great equalizer and can unlock potential and create opportunities. In other words, for birthdays, special occasions and holidays we contribute to a RESP and hope this becomes the foundation that supports their goals. We feel we have an opportunity to leave a legacy of empowerment.
We also built a family cottage, ironically after our four children became adults and had children of their own. We wanted it to be a touchstone for the family designed with the intention of bringing people together in a casual setting to create moments and unforgettable memories.
But we haven’t mastered it all yet.
We are a work in progress, and others have influenced some of our thoughts. For example, family holidays could shape a desire for exploration and leave a legacy of wonder. Or consider making a difference in the wider community through volunteering or philanthropy. Acts of kindness and giving back can influence others to give of themselves and inspire a sense of social responsibility.
Have you thought about the life you lived and the legacy you truly want to leave behind?
Now if you are thinking this all makes sense but requires money, to some degree, I would agree. However, something to consider is freeing up some of the wealth created in your home through a reverse mortgage to provide a little financial wiggle room. In fact, being able to take out some of the value in your home and direct it towards something that may give your life more meaning is one of the big reasons I joined the company.
If your family, or charity of choice, is ultimately the beneficiary of your estate, why not explore this further? You can still stay in your home, and you will still have a financial legacy to pass along when your home is sold. But in the meantime, while you are able, you get to witness and enjoy your legacy in a way that extends beyond simply gifting money. The lasting part of your legacy will be the experiences, memories and emotions you have created throughout your life.
I honestly think it is worth exploring ways of creating a legacy that transcends financial wealth and focuses on your legacy of love, compassion, adventure, knowledge and so much more.
I have said it before and will say it again. No one wants to be the richest person in the graveyard so go ahead and spend your money on what matters most to you. Give yourself permission to create your legacy according to your standards. The only standards that truly matter.