Webster’s defines legacy as a gift by will especially of money or other personal property. It is also something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past the legacy of the ancient philosophers.  Legacy for most that I know is what we are remembered for.  It could be a family tradition or reputation and respect associated with a name.  Those are important, but for many of us that is often the only thing we are given by our family members. That and a lot of grief and frustration over how to pay for things and how to move forward.  The term estate planning was a foreign concept to me growing up, and for a long time I thought it was only something “they” or rich people did.  I now know that estate planning is simply planning, and your plan can be simple or very complex. If you are alive, you have an estate and something worth planning for.

Planning for life after death is very important, but there are some things that can and should be done while we are still living. When thinking about estate planning, it’s important to also think about what happens if you are injured or are no longer able to take care of yourself.  Life is short and if we learned nothing else from 2020 and this pandemic, we know tomorrow is not promised.  We often put things off saying, I’ll do it tomorrow, or I’ve got time, but we never know when our time will be up.  I love life and don’t like to dwell on the negatives or spiral down the what if hallway. However, I know that taking a quick stroll or peek in is necessary. The two documents that everyone should consider and have regardless of health or wealth status are a living will (advanced medical/health directive) and power of attorney. A health care directive is written instructions for how your health care will be handled when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. Different states call it different things, but in the document, you can appoint someone as a healthcare agent and tell them what you want to do.  A common scenario is whether you want to be placed on life support or not, or whether you’d want to be revived or not.  There have been countless scenes in movies and television shows that talk about this, and even some high-profile cases in the news.  Being in emergency situations are difficult and stressful by itself, but if there is a question about what a loved one wants, it takes that stress to the umpteenth level.  Do you really want to deal with that? Do you want your loved ones to have to deal with that?! I don’t think you do. The way around that is to get a healthcare directive.  Most states have statutory or standard form that is recognized throughout the state and by all medical care providers.

It is my goal to make sure that when I die a part of my legacy will be that I helped educate as many as possible about the necessity and benefit of planning.  The same way we set goals for finances, education, and our health is the same approach we need to take for life after we pass. The term “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” has become even more real to me.  If you are reading this, then you have taken a great first step in taking control of the plan your life and your family members.  The goal of this post is to introduce you to estate planning, what it involves, and highlight some of the key aspects.  This list is not exhaustive but will hopefully help in getting the conversation started.

Estate Planning

Estate Planning is the action of arranging a person’s life before their death. This minimizes the effects of gift, estate, generation skipping transfer, and income tax. The size of your estate, or assets, will determine the level of detail needed for your plan.


A written legal document that addresses what you want to happen when you die, who will care for your minor children, property, money, miscellaneous belongings, etc.  To obtain a Will, you must be at least 18 years old and have the capacity to enter a contract. To be valid the Will must be signed, and most states require two witnesses.

Advanced Medical Directive

Advanced Medical Directive written instructions for how your health care will be handled when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

Power of Attorney

(use with caution)

Written consent that can be given to a person so that they have the authority to act on another person’s behalf regarding private affairs, business, or other legal matters.

Things to Consider in Preparation

  • Identify Goals
  • Identify loved Ones
  • Children or those with Special Needs
  • Assets
  • Burial or Cremation
  • Organ/Body Donation
  • Charitable Contributions
  • Insurance Policies

Things a Will Won’t Handle

  • Property you’ve transferred to a living trust
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts, or
  • Property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.
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