The word “inheritance” usually conjures up images of property or accounts with significant monetary value. Without such wealth, you nevertheless, can leave your family a great legacy. You can provide them with an even longer-lasting inheritance by doing these seven things. Whether or not your bank account is overflowing, you can ensure you have a lasting legacy. As an Austin estate planning attorney, I recommend all clients share their family values and heritage with future generations.
For example, in my case, a picture of Paris could evoke a connection with past (and hopefully many future) family trips. Sharing this family legacy through letters, photos, and heirlooms can tell a story to future generations.
People who do not have a lot of money think it is unnecessary to have an estate plan. After all, what is an estate plan without an estate? Yet estate planning is more than ensuring a person’s wealth passes to the next generation. It also involves making your wishes known concerning certain property items, burial arrangements, and end-of-life care decisions. Family relationships can rupture over the question of who gets the homemade Christmas tree ornaments. Children have agonized over how much to spend on their parent’s casket and other burial arrangements. They do not want to skimp on something they feel represents their love for their parent.
Your family can have peace of mind knowing with certainty that they are carrying out your wishes. They will know this if you provide a crystal clear understanding of what those wishes are. Whether or not you have much money, you can simply leave a meaningful legacy to your family by making a plan.
Although several things are more important than money, there is nothing wrong with preserving the money you have. You can leave more money in your family’s hands by avoiding unnecessary estate administration expenses like probate. If you own real property, such as a home, you can avoid probate. You can do so by creating a trust and transferring your property into the trust. Alternatively, you could use a transfer-on-death deed, if your state’s law allows that. Suppose you have bank accounts, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies. In that case, you can also avoid probate. Do so by using payable-on-death designations, transfer-on-death registrations, beneficiary designations, or by transferring the accounts into a trust.
Suppose your estate’s value is below a specific limit. In that case, small-estate proceedings allow property transfer by a simple affidavit. Still, the limit amounts vary from state to state, so it is essential to understand your state’s limits and rely on the affidavit option only as a last resort. Spending a small amount of effort upfront using such designations can save a lot in later expenses and delays.
Aside from the time it takes, writing personal letters to your family costs little or nothing, but such letters can be far more valuable than vast amounts of money. Personal letters could share stories, encourage, provide advice, or express emotions. For example, a grandparent could write a letter to a grandchild commemorating a special occasion in that grandchild’s life (such as high school graduation) with the grandparent’s memories of the grandchild and expressions of love and admiration for the grandchild’s talents and qualities. This type of personal letter will be a family treasure that will endure long after any possession that money can buy.
Family traditions are an excellent and lasting legacy. What makes them even more remarkable is that your family can tailor them entirely according to your family’s interests and priorities. Your family can start them anytime, and they do not have to cost a lot of money. Many traditions revolve around holidays, such as picnics at the lake on the Fourth of July or making Great-grandma’s sugar cookies every Valentine’s Day. Maybe your family has traditions around the Super Bowl or Friday night movies.
Even if you do not currently have many family traditions, it is not too late to start. Your imagination is the only limit to creating a fun tradition that your family looks forward to and repeats regularly.
It is important not to underestimate the value of family heirlooms. Although heirlooms may or may not be worth much money, their sentimental value can be enormous. From Grandma’s wedding dress to the trunk that Great-great-grandpa used to haul his possessions across the sea when he emigrated from Italy to the United States, such heirlooms are a treasured part of a family’s legacy.
You can preserve the story of the item’s significance so that an unsuspecting but well-meaning person does not throw the heirloom out with the trash. So be sure to record to whom the item belonged and why it is crucial.
The adage says that a picture is worth a thousand words; sometimes, a picture is worth more than thousands of dollars. You can create a family history with images by snapping photos of everyday family activities and significant family events.
Also, go through old family photos because you may be the keeper of some of the only surviving pictures of specific ancestors. Helping younger generations understand who their grandparents and great-grandparents were with images that can put faces to names is a valuable legacy to leave.
A person can derive identity and strength from knowing where they came from, their ancestors’ struggles and challenges, and how they prevailed. Numerous websites help you trace your family history back through hundreds of years. But a family history can also start with your own story, which you can preserve by writing down or making a voice recording of your personal experiences.
Children, grandchildren, and subsequent generations will consider it a great treasure to learn your thoughts about where and how you grew up, the challenges you faced, and how you persevered through them. You can also write down your memories of your parents and grandparents if they did not write their personal histories.
Even if you do not have a lot of money, you can still leave your family a great legacy. Achieve this by making a plan, avoiding unnecessary expenses, writing personal letters, leaving family heirlooms, creating family traditions memorialized with pictures, and recording your and your family’s history.
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