“911 what’s your Emergency?” Many of us dread having to make the call for a loved one who is struggling for their last breath. It could be for a spouse, parent, grandparent or god-forbid, a child. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, even when it’s expected, it’s unexpected.
That’s how I felt when my father passed from medical complications five years ago. What accumulated to several years of doctors’ visits, follow-up appointments, scheduled medical tests and trips to the pharmacy, created a regiment to buy more time together. Fast-forward to the day he lay on a hospital bed after a massive heart attack, followed by 15 days in a coma. This is how my father spent the final days of his life.
Death and how we grieve is a very personal journey and unique to each of us. Some cry, others express a spectrum of emotions from anger to resentment. No one really “gets over it”, as it's difficult to fill the void of losing a loved one. But in the end, we all die one day or another, as life is not guaranteed. What lives on, is the impact we have on others, this is our legacy.
The legacy my father wanted to leave was that he was able to provide to the best of his ability for his wife and three children. His biggest priority as an immigrant from India, was to ensure his children were educated and see them settled, in anything they wanted to do.
He did not have the opportunity for himself. Like many others as struggling immigrants, my father wanted to make sure he left this world with a roof over his family’s head, be able to afford at least two square meals a day, and teach his kids to live an honest living. I remember him saying, “if you cannot look at yourself in the mirror, then you were on the wrong path.”
It’s been five years since he passed, reminiscing about my dad got me thinking. “What legacy do I want to leave?” Being first generation American, living in the suburbs of a metropolis, I have many advantages available to me. I have been working since the age of 14, I’m now 30-something and have amassed over a decade of wealth management experience, built a large network, and have some serious life experience.
I hope my 20 years of contributions to society leads to inspiring others to share and think about leaving a legacy. My legacy is my family, currently, my niece and nephew. I hope to be fully present to be the best aunt I can be. I hope to leave a legacy as a good daughter, and a loyal and loving sister and friend.
Here are a few ways in which you can help your family leave a great legacy:
1. Think about What is important to you and Why? This will help define the foundation of your legacy in a plan: What is your purpose? How do you want to be remembered? What values do you want to leave behind to your family, friends and community? This will help define the rest of your plan.
2. Evaluate your relationships and assess your values, how they are being perceived? Successful acquaintances in the medical profession, parents found themselves constantly working to provide a comfortable life for their family. A luxurious home with cars to match, designer clothing, lavish parties and vacations with friends. Seldom home to see their children grow. Parents relied on housekeepers, private schools, and credit cards to raise their children exchanging the occasional text message. Then one day came a call from their son’s college dean, the type of call no parent wants to get. In the search for wealth, I can tell you that at the end of your life you will think less about money, and more about the memories you have created with your family, the only regret being you wish you’d had more time with them.
3. Evaluate your Estate Plan: Estate planning can mean different things to different people. These are some of the areas that an estate plan can cover:
° Essential planning (Wills, Powers of Attorney)
° Legacy Planning/Asset Protection
° Long-term care planning
° Small business succession planning
° Retirement planning
° Planning for incapacity
° Special needs planning
Think about the Five W’s:
WHO – We believe all adults need to plan their estate. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. Whether you are 18, 40, 65 or 100, you should consider an estate plan. Furthermore; have you considered who you want raising your children, who should be in charge of your wealth once you pass, and who will run your business.
WHAT - What Assets do you own? Your home, investments, life insurance, retirement plans and jewelry are the most obvious. But, what about your grandmothers’ secret recipes, air miles, credit card points and movies stored on your iTunes account. For others it may be patents, trademarks and other intellectual property.
WHEN - If you are asking yourself when to plan, the answer is now! Planning now, will help to answer all the other “when’s”. When do you want your loved ones or charitable organizations receiving their inheritance, when do you wish to be removed from life support…
WHERE - Although online services provide a “one size fits all” template, allow me to be very clear, there is no substitute for a qualified Trust & Estate Attorney. The field of law is complex and tax law is constantly evolving, it is important you work with a Trust & Estate Attorney, as opposed to an attorney whose practice focuses on other areas. We can help you understand how to choose the right attorney for you.
WHY - Accumulating wealth is great, but having your wealth work alongside your values is TRUE wealth. Part of my personal legacy is giving and supporting kids from financially-disadvantaged homes in pursuit of their education to make the world a better place. For my legacy that could be tuition fees for education to a four-year college or trade school, or school supplies or food for less fortunate families. I hope one day, I can inspire the kids I help, to be able to pay it forward.
Without the proper legal documents, the State (better known as the Courts) decides what will happen for you and how your heirs receive the assets. Each state has their own process for distribution to the next of kin, usually following spouse, children, siblings, parents, extended family, but not necessarily in that order.
Want to avoid having your money go to “Cousin T” or your kid’s deadbeat spouse, GET YOUR DOCUMENTS IN PLACE!!! It’s a small price to pay in legal fees and time to assure your property passes the way you want them to.
I want to thank my family, friends, colleagues, readers, and the Universe. I am very blessed to have received an abundance of love, appreciation and support in my life. Life is a blessing, no matter how long or short it is, enjoy every moment and share the abundance of these blessings. A quote I will leave with is by Winnie the Pooh,
“There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Believe in yourself, your values, and leave this world better than you received it.
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The views expressed here are of the author, not Advisory Services Network, LLC, and should not be construed as tax or legal advice. Neither the author nor Advisory Services Network, LLC gives tax or legal advice.