May is “Leave a Legacy” Month

Virtually every month now has multiple awareness labels attached to them as advocates for various causes seek to raise public support for different causes. For example, this month is known in some international circles as “Leave a Legacy” month. Considering that many New Yorkers continue to delay estate planning and otherwise put off getting long-term affairs in order, this is certainly an awareness campaign that we can get behind.

In fact, some advocates are using a New York example as a reminder. We discussed the case last week of a man who apparently left his $40 million estate to no one, meaning that the funds will be end up in the state coffers. While most do not leave behind estates of that size, failing to create a will or designate how to allocate assets is far too common.

Estate Planning is About Your Legacy
In a Huffington Post story about “Leave a Legacy” month, one advocate explored various aspects to the idea of “legacy.” Far more than merely giving stuff away, one’s legacy is shaped by many factors and decisions geared toward the long game.

Of course creating a will, using trusts, ensuring proper alternative beneficiary designations, exploring insurance options, and similar financial details are important. But a legacy is also about giving back. Advocates encourage everyone, no matter how much money one is leaving behind, to consider giving some to a favored charity or cause. Even small gifts can have an oversized impact. Those gifts can be powerfully symbolic, letting those you are leaving behind know the value you place in service and the causes that you valued throughout your life.

Giving Back
The official “Leave a Legacy” website offers a detailed call for considering charities when conducting estate plans. It is noted that while “more than 80 percent of Americans contribute to the nonprofit groups of their choice throughout their lifetimes […] according to research conducted in 2000, only around eight percent of people chose to continue this support through a charitable bequest.”

This discrepancy is often not because individuals suddenly decide that they do not value charitable causes. Instead, many simply forget about this aspect of estate planning and legacy creation. That is particularly true for those who conduct planning without the assistance of a professional. Estate planning attorneys are more likely to at least ask if inclusion of a charity is somethings one wants to consider.

Hopefully more local residents will get serious about their legacies and consider exactly how they want to be remembered and what can be done now to create that lasting impact.

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