THOUGHTS ON LEGACY
If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that every moment is precious. Every opportunity to be with family, to explore new adventures, to travel, to share a meal together matters. And thinking about these lost moments over the last year has us thinking about time. Maybe you’re not among those that want to live forever. We’re not really either. But we do want to live fully in the time we have. It’s one of the core characteristics of the Roberts team and our clients.
And as we head into the spring of 2021, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about how our plans for the future affect our day-to-day lives. While we’ve worked with a slew of different clients, one consistent we’ve found between them is the difference in the life led by those clients who have a plan for after they die and those who are living out that plan out now. And the difference is startling.
When a client comes into Roberts to talk about legacy planning, they almost always start in the context of what they want to happen after they’re gone. But this is not the foundation of legacy planning. The foundation of legacy planning is to create something that will be a continuation of what that person has already been doing\living. A legacy plan is an extension of who you are and how you are living now. This means that the very best legacy plan doesn’t kick in after you’ve departed; it kicks in right here, today.
“A legacy plan is an extension of who you are and how you are living now. “
And like anything else of import in your life, it cannot be winged. Much like how you started a family or a business or took careful steps to climb a career ladder, very little success in life is entirely accidental. So it is during our lives, and even more so after. Which again, is why a good plan cannot begin with your absence. A good plan has to begin with you around and making decisions. Legacy starts with your life today.
At Roberts, this begins with examining the things that are important to you at this very moment. Do you like to be generous? Is your local or global philanthropy a priority to you? Do you enjoy creating institutions and resources for those less fortunate? Do you consider spoiling your children or grandchildren your life’s greatest calling? And so on. These might all be things that you may wish to continue when you’re gone, but they are deeply rooted in present actions. And as such, they necessitate a plan, not only in your absence but now as well.
MORE THAN LEGAL DOCS (BUT NOT LESS)
Some people think of estate planning as just getting some essential legal docs: wills, powers of attorney, trusts, etc. in place and moving along your merry way. But those documents are as worthless as the paper their written on unless they do two things:
1. Embody your real-life priorities. When it comes to working with an estate attorney to prepare your essential documents, everything we said above still stands. You need a legal partner who works for the same playbook we do at Roberts: planning from your VALUES first, not just playing mad-libs with some fillable forms.
2. Integrate with your financial plan. The more wealth you accrue (even buying a house or starting an IRA), the more your estate/legacy plan and your financial plan intertwine. We regularly see situations where the legal work is done with little concern to the financial planning. In these cases, everything from financial disaster to missed tax savings to extended legal bills can result. Your legacy plan is embedded in your financial strategy and should flow from there into the legal structures your attorney creates and manages.