Living a Life of Significance: How Legacy Planning Diverges from Estate Planning

Bruce Beaty, VP Business Consultant


What Is Estate Planning?

The arranging for the disposition and management of one’s estate at death through the use of wills, trusts, insurance policies, and other devices.

Therefore, Estate planning is about death. Death, taxes, probate (avoidance), courts, attorneys, accountants, executors, trustees, documents, fees, delays, fighting and frustrations. Estate planning can also infer that one has an estate. The implication then is that estate planning is reserved exclusively for the wealthy.

Legacy planning however, used as a synonym for estate planning, carries a different connotation altogether.

“A Legacy is what you leave behind in others; the planning we are doing right now gives them the capacity to act on that gift.”

Levi Sherley, Asset Advisor

An important question that we begin asking ourselves as humans more frequently with each passing year is something along the lines of, “How can I make a positive impact in this world beyond myself and my end date?”, and “How can I make life easier, better, and more significant for my child, community, or even strangers I may never meet?”

You see I believe we have a moral obligation to help as many people leave a legacy of significance for their people. Yes this means good estate planning (for everyone who has any level of assets) but it is so much more.  Let’s close on what this really means.

Legacy Planning consists of the following:

The Estate Planning Component:

  • Properly funded Trusts to avoid probate.
  • Non-Trust Assets properly structured with POD, TOD and updated beneficiaries.
  • Well-structured Wills, designating important items going to the right people.  (Imagine the family wars created when people decide to let their heirs sort it out!)
  • Advanced Directive so difficult decisions do not have to be debated by loved ones.
  • Financial Powers of Attorney so that important transactions can continue if someone is incapacitated. 
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney designating who should make important decisions if my body quits before I do.

The Legacy Component:

A Family Love Letter allows our clients to speak love into the hearts of their families and leaves instructions as to their values and wishes.  A powerful part of this message could include, “Lessons I have learned about money and what I want you to know about the gift you are receiving.” 

This final note is an opportunity to right a wrong that could just never be addressed on this side, or to kindly and gently encourage good behavior.  An example could be, “Johnny, I’m so proud of you for staying clean, and your trust will allow you to keep making great choices and accessing your inheritance every five years.  Keep it up!”

The bottom line is this: Making an impact beyond ourselves can be done without resources by simply being a wonderful person, but the effect is multiplied exponentially with capacity.  Maximize that capacity for your clients by implementing all the above estate planning protections and then add in the following.

Life insurance:   Leveraging a larger death benefit for heirs turning small dollars into BIG tax-free dollars.

Living benefits: (Life Insurance, Annuities, and LTC) Keep the clients in the comfort of their own home and accessible to the family as long as you can while mitigating estate shrinkage as long as possible.  These types of resources can make a huge difference in their care experience, and quality of life towards the end.

Lifetime income that they cannot outlive.  I love Tom Hegna’s idea of creating a paycheck and a “play-check” for life. If we all started working with our clients to designate one check every month for joy, even just $1000 to spend on something fun, to give it to someone to impact their life, to go see a child or grandchild, or whatever.  Can you imagine what a Legacy your clients will be living while they are alive to see and enjoy it?   Give your clients permission to spend! Make it a goal. How about we create lifetime inflation-proof income with all the qualified money and buy a big old life policy to fund the family Legacy?

I guess what I am saying is that if we provide all the protections, spend the right monies at the right times, and do this thing right, the Legacies your clients will leave behind will change the future for generations to come. 

Think about this, why does the name Rockefeller still carry so much sway today?  John D. passed away almost a century ago.  His name and impact is his Legacy.  What’s yours?