Home > Insights > Estate Planning & Trusts > How to Leave Your Legacy

How to Leave Your Legacy

Shot of a multigenerational family baking together in the kitchen.

It’s More Than Just Finances

To leave a legacy means more than the dollars you leave in the pockets of your children. A legacy is an opportunity to love someone from the grave. It’s forever tying a memory to a smell, taste or sound. It’s asking yourself how you want to be remembered and what your core values are — then putting those answers into action. Here are four ways to leave a legacy for those you love.

Give back to your community.

If generosity and acts of service are among your core values, consider participating in at least one volunteer activity per year with friends or family. You can take part in a fundraiser or donate your time or talent to a local non-profit you’re passionate about. If you have an affinity for a particular cause, creating a charitable foundation can be a meaningful way to provide your loved ones with employment or board membership opportunities directly related to the cause you support. While a private foundation is certain to leave a powerful financial legacy, it also promotes collaboration, creativity and continuity of your philanthropic vision. A foundation can be structured to operate indefinitely so that the lessons you leave to your heirs can be taught for generations to come.

Keep record.

Record a video message or keep a journal. When a loved one passes away, it’s common to hear sentiments such as, “I wish I could see their face or hear their voice again.” Recording a video message is an opportunity to express your love, share your life experiences and values, and offer guidance to your loved ones. Think about answering questions such as:

  • What do you love most about your family?
  • What’s something you want your loved ones to remember about you?
  • What do you hope the inheritance you leave your heirs will afford them? (This can be material or immaterial.)
  • What’s the most important lesson you hope your loved ones take to heart?

If a video feels too formal or induces stage fright, consider keeping a journal. Put it someplace you’ll see it often so that you can jot down daily observations, funny memories, random thoughts and pieces of wisdom you want to pass along. There’s no need to copy edit or write multiple pages at once. Keeping a journal can be a low-pressure way of putting your personality to paper — a gift your loved ones will cherish when you’re gone (and possibly even pass along to their heirs!).

Create a will and/or a trust.

The act of creating a will and/or trust gifts the absence of chaos to your heirs following your death. These documents outline who will inherit your assets as well as how and by whom they’ll be distributed. Putting your wishes in writing helps to prevent disputes and legal battles among your heirs. Additionally, a trust may be able to protect your assets from creditors, reduce estate taxes and provide financial support to your beneficiaries. A trust can also prevent your heirs from having to participate in probate, a lengthy and often expensive formal court administration processes that “proves” the legitimacy of your will after death. While far from glamorous, creating a will and/or trust is a generous and loving act of housekeeping that may spare your children from unnecessary additional suffering after your passing.

Start a family tradition.

Whether it be the dependable smell of homemade birthday cake, the sound of Frank Sinatra coming from the kitchen on Saturday mornings or counting constellations from a tent under the open sky every summer, a tradition reinforces your family’s values and creates a sense of belonging. Establishing positive family traditions has proven to increase a child’s ability to form a strong sense of identity — an identity you have the opportunity to forever influence.

So take that annual spring break trip with your loved ones. Contribute to your favorite charity and participate in their fundraising events. Record a legacy video for the important people in your life (if you’re a client of Creative Planning, we can save yours to your digital legacy file for your heirs). A little preparation now will make for a much smoother road for your heirs down the line.

While some in the financial services industry limit their definition of “legacy planning” to the gifting of one’s assets, we at Creative Planning understand the ultimate goal is much greater. To discuss our custom estate planning strategies and how we can help contribute to your legacy, please schedule an appointment.

This commentary is provided for general information purposes only, should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship. Past performance of any market results is no assurance of future performance. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.


Find out how Creative Planning can help you maximize your wealth.

Latest Articles

Ready to Get Started?

Meet with a wealth advisor near you to see if your money could be working harder for you. Receive a free, no-obligation consultation.


Prefer to discuss over the phone?