You probably understand the importance of estate planning and the role it plays in your life; however, you may be unfamiliar with the concept of legacy planning. Legacy planning lets you leave behind much more of who you are and what made you the person you are today. The Charlotte legacy planning attorney at the Potter Law Firm explains how to pass down your legacy in your estate plan.
Traditional Estate Planning
A traditional estate plan focuses on protecting, growing, and eventually distributing the tangible assets you acquire over the course of your lifetime. In other words, the focus is on your material wealth. While traditional estate planning remains necessary, it does have its limitations. For example, your traditional estate plan can help you plan for the end of your life by creating a roadmap for distributing your material wealth after you are gone; however, there is no place in that plan to focus on the values, morals, faith, and beliefs that have guided you throughout your lifetime and helped you reach the material success you have achieved. Passing down those characteristics may be just as important – if not more important — to you as passing down your assets which is why legacy planning is so important.
Legacy planning is not intended to take the place of your traditional estate plan. Instead, legacy planning is something that can be woven into your existing estate plan. The idea behind legacy planning is to ensure that the intangible assets you have – your morals, values, faith, and philosophies – are also passed down to future generations because for many of us, those are what we really want to leave behind for our children and grandchildren.
How Do I Incorporate Legacy Planning into My Estate Plan?
Before you can decide how you want to incorporate your legacy into your estate plan, you need to take some time to decide what you want your legacy to be. Ask yourself what beliefs, philosophies, and values helped shape you into the person you are today. What do you believe is important in life? What core beliefs have guided you throughout your life? What philosophies have you used in your career or when investing money? What core values have guided you in business and/or in amassing your estate? Most importantly, what do you hope future generations learn from you? After you have spent some time contemplating these (and similar) questions, you should have started to form the basis for your legacy plan.
Because everyone leaves behind a very personal and unique legacy, only your legacy planning attorney can help you decide exactly how to incorporate your legacy into your estate plan. There are, however, some common tools and strategies used in legacy planning. One common legacy planning tool is a trust. As the Settlor of the trust, you have the ability to use the trust terms you create to weave aspects of your legacy into the trust. For instance, if a belief in the importance of higher education is a core belief of yours, you could establish an education trust that includes terms which provide that assets held in the trust can only be used to pay for post-secondary educational expenses. If your faith is a vital part of who you are and how you live your life, you could also use a trust to continue to financially support your faith long after you are gone through charitable donations to a religious organization. Of course, your Last Will and Testament can also be a legacy planning tool when used to make outright gifts to charities that are close to your heart. Finally, drafting a Letter of Instruction is a straightforward method of passing down your legacy within your estate plan. A Letter of Instruction, as the name implies, is an estate planning tool that allows you to provide guidance and instruction to loved ones. Although not legally binding, a Letter of Instruction can be an excellent way to let future generations know what you believe to be your legacy and what you hope they inherit from that legacy.
Contact a Charlotte Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about how to pass down your legacy, contact an experienced Charlotte legacy planning attorney at the Potter Law Firm by calling 704-944-3245 (for our Charlotte and Huntersville, NC offices) to schedule your appointment. You can reach our Ashland, KY office at 606-324-5516 and our Florence, KY office at 859-372-6655.