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Don’t Leave This Out of Your Estate Plan

Put some of yourself into your estate plan

Drafting an estate plan isn’t something most people get excited about. I don’t know many who are eager to think about their passing, or to wade through all those legal documents.

Think about it. You sit down with a lawyer to plan your estate, and what takes place?

There’s normally a questionnaire to complete. That document requires us to list our financial assets. We talk with the lawyer about taking care of a spouse. That’s a good thing. And we talk about passing our assets on to our children, maybe grandchildren if we have them.

Funny thing, a 2015 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study tells a different reality: retirees are twice as likely to say that it is more important to pass on values and virtues to their children instead of financial assets.

What’s more amazing, younger generations are two-and-a-half times more likely to say that values and life lessons are more important to receive than financial assets.

We need to start the estate planning discussion with different questions. What do you most want to pass on to your children? What stories? What values? How can your documents be used to pass on those stories and values? How can your assets be used to reinforce those values?

It’s a different question and a different process, but a worthy place to start.


Personality in estate documents?

Now, we’re still talking about drafting a will or trust, which means a lot of legal complexity. There’s a reason people call lawyer-speak alphabet soup.

But don’t let the complexity stop you from adding yourself to the document. What do I mean?

At a minimum, I recommend that you add a preamble to your will or trust.

Steve Marken of Stewardship Counsel calls this type of document a “legacy letter” or “letter of wishes.”

That preamble may include your purpose in drafting the document, your purpose in life, your expression of love and gratitude for your children and why you are making gifts to them and/or charity.

Adding a non-binding “legacy letter” is perfectly legal. Ask your lawyer. But I suspect that document will be the most meaningful thing your heirs will read!


Related posts:
Why don’t we complete estate plans
4 Questions on Leaving a Gift to Ministries in Your Estate

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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