Ruth-Ann E. Toups
Five Things You Will Leave That Are More Important Than Money
Most of estate planning involves very serious matters like where your assets will go when you pass away and who would take care of the ones you love when you are gone. From time to time, I like to remind my clients to think about some of the small things that will mean far more than money to the ones you love. So, here are my top five things you will leave your heirs that are more important than money:
Especially for your daughters, jewelry gives your heirs something to remember you by daily. Whether it’s a ring or a necklace, jewelry is sentimental and long-lasting. It can be passed down from generation to generation and serve as a way for you to create a legacy that long outlives you. So, think carefully about what jewelry you wear daily and who you know will cherish it.
It’s happened. We’ve become a society where our memories are woven into our social media. People don’t think about just how meaningful their Facebook profile will be to those they leave behind. It will contain videos and pictures of you, your thoughts, and special memories. Facebook also turns users’ pages into memorials for them after they pass. It’s a great way for you to leave behind a virtual photo album and collection of family videos.
In our busy society phone calls are often missed and we respond with a text, but we miss. One, is that people don’t leave voicemails anymore. Did you know most smartphones can save a voicemail indefinitely? My most prized possessions are voicemails that I saved from loved ones. It’s a way your heirs can hear your voice encouraging them or telling them you love them. Leave voicemails with intention!
There is something special about picking up an old cookbook from my great-grandmother. I never got to meet her, but I love to see her handwriting and the notes in my grandmother and mother’s handwriting making edits to our family recipes. It gives me a real sense of belonging and appreciation for our family traditions. So, whether it’s your bible with notes about things you went through and favorite verses circled; or a tattered copy of your favorite childhood book, your heirs now and to come will enjoy reading your books through the lens of your life.
When I give my clients their estate planning portfolios with all their important documents completed, I encourage them to include letters to their loved ones. The truth is, you won’t be remembered by how much money you were able to leave your loved ones, and they won’t know you respected and loved them because you gave them the job of “executor” or “trustee” (those jobs are really stressful). Instead, your loved ones will remember you by how you made them feel about themselves, and they will know you loved and respected them when you tell you them that you do. You can accomplish both by writing them each a short letter and putting them with your estate planning documents.
These things might be hard to think about. And, I know it can be overwhelming to find the right words or the right gift or the right time to dwell on the topic. Make sure you take the time during the estate planning process to focus on what your heirs are going to care about—memories of you!