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  • Writer's pictureSteve Coker, CFP

Family Conversations: Legacy planning beyond the will and trust

Having a will and trust in place is an important step to protect your family and make sure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. But a will and trust often fail to communicate everything your family should know when you are gone – or before you are gone. My father died this year, and it was a difficult time. Yet, I was comforted to know that there was nothing left unsaid between me and my father. Sure, he had a trust, but the legacy that he left was more than money or a legal document. He is and will always be a part of me. I loved him and he loved me – and we both knew it. This Thanksgiving, as your family gathers, I encourage you to take these steps to leave a legacy for your family.

Say it

Sometimes we know what needs to be said but can’t quite summon the courage or resolve to say it. Perhaps the words are “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” or simply “I love you.” Saying the words are so much more important than sitting down with an attorney to write out a will or trust. What needs to be said in your family? What do you want your legacy to be?

Write a letter

Consider writing a letter to your family that sets out the legacy that you want to leave. This could take the form of a general letter or a letter to each family member. Affirm what you see in them. Give them encouragement for their future. Share your desire for their future. If you are leaving money, then share the why, share a dream of what they could do with that money. A letter can be a treasure that sets out what is important to you and what you want for your family.

Explain your decisions

You may already have a will or trust, but does your family know why you decided to make those decisions. Sometimes a will or trust can be legally clear, but leave the family baffled. For example, if you left money to a charity, explain to your family why you chose to do that. If you left more money to one of your children, explain your reasoning. Sharing now can really help to avoid conflict and hurt feelings in the future and can help get the whole family on board.

As you plan for your legacy, consider more than just the legal ramifications of the will and trust. I encourage you to start now to create a legacy that lasts for generations and is not in your will.


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