You are probably already familiar with the concept of estate planning. In fact, you (hopefully) already have an estate plan in place. What you may not be as familiar with though is the concept of legacy planning. Legacy planning is an opportunity to take your existing estate plan to the next level and leave behind more of yourself than just the assets you accumulated over the course of your lifetime.
Traditional Estate Planning vs. Legacy Planning
If you already have an estate plan in place, the good news is that you can incorporate legacy planning into that existing plan without the need to create an entirely new plan. The reason for this is that legacy planning does not take the place of your existing estate plan. Instead, it adds to that plan by focusing on things that are typically overlooked in traditional estate planning and incorporating tools and strategies aimed at including the legacy you wish to leave behind for future generations. A traditional estate plan focuses on the distribution of estate assets after death. Your estate assets may include real or personal property as well as tangible and intangible assets. Those assets, however, all represent the material wealth you have accumulated over the course of your lifetime. Using traditional estate planning methods, there is no place for deeply held values, ideals, and beliefs that may be just as important to you as those assets – even more important for many people. Traditional estate planning remains important, of course, because you do need a roadmap that can be used to distribute your material wealth when you die. You also need a plan that determines who will control those assets and who will make decisions for you should you become incapacitated at some point in the future. All of that can be addressed in a traditional estate plan. What is not addressed in a traditional estate plan are the values, morals, faith, and beliefs that have guided you throughout your lifetime and helped you achieve the material success you have achieved. For that, you need to turn to legacy planning.
What Will Your Legacy Be?
The first step in legacy planning is taking time to contemplate the legacy you hope to pass down to your children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. What are the ideals and beliefs that have guided you throughout your lifetime? What is important to you? How can that legacy shape future generations? Once you know what legacy you want to pass down, it is time to weave that legacy into your estate plan. Your legacy planning attorney will help you do just that by using a wide variety of strategies and tools. A Letter of Instruction is a simple and straightforward way to include legacy planning in your estate plan by putting down in writing what you want future generations to know and understand about the beliefs and values that shaped your life. You may also decide to take a more pro-active approach by including a trust in your legacy plan. A trust allows you to create terms that can directly reflect your values and beliefs. For example, the trust terms may stipulate that the assets held in the trust may only be used to pay for educational expenses incurred by beneficiaries. You might even require beneficiaries to attend a specific school or pursue a select area of higher education, such as medicine or law. You can also use charitable gifting tools within your plan to help further your faith and beliefs. Gifting to a church, for example, clearly shows future generations that your faith was important to you while leaving behind a sizeable donation to one of the many not for profit environmental groups shows your commitment to the environment.
The legacy you leave behind is yours to create and, with the help of a legacy planning attorney, yours to incorporate into your estate plan.
Contact Illinois Legacy Planning Attorneys
Please join us for an upcoming FREE estate planning seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning or legacy planning, or you are ready to get started with your plan, contact the experienced Illinois legacy planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.