We've explored many times before the importance of thorough estate planning, and how preparation now can save a world of emotional heartache and legal complexity later on. After all, estate planning helps individuals ensure their loved ones are taken care of after they pass away.
A well-drafted Will is the most common and essential document for distributing assets and avoiding potential disputes among beneficiaries. However, amidst the financial and legal aspects, many people forget to include another significant component in their estate planning - their emotional legacy.
In this article, we'll explore why emotional legacies are often overlooked in estate planning, and why they are equally important as the tangible assets we leave behind.
What is an Emotional Legacy?
An emotional legacy refers to the intangible aspects of ourselves that we leave behind for our loved ones. It encompasses our values, beliefs, life lessons, memories, and the emotional impact we had on others during our life. This legacy extends beyond material possessions, and has a profound effect on how our loved ones remember and cherish us after we are gone.
Much like how an ill-prepared Will (or having no Will in place at all) can leave lasting damage to loved ones, your emotional legacy can leave a lasting impression long after your death.
Why People Forget About Their Emotional Legacy
Focus on Tangible Assets
When drafting a Will, individuals (and rightly so) concentrate on distributing their financial assets and property. Whilst this is vitally important, it is also important to consider passing on intangible aspects.
Discussing emotions and feelings can be challenging for some individuals, leading them to avoid the topic altogether. They may perceive it as a vulnerable or uncomfortable subject to address, or this may stem from cultural or societal expectations or beliefs.
Lack of Awareness
Many individuals simply aren't aware of the concept of an emotional legacy. They may not realise the lasting impact of their values and personal stories on their loved ones.
The Importance of Including Emotional Legacies
Preserving Family Values
By sharing personal values and beliefs in the Will or supplementing documents, individuals can preserve family traditions and pass on a sense of identity to future generations.
Healing and Closure
An emotional legacy can offer closure to grieving loved ones. It allows them to understand the departed's innermost thoughts and provides an opportunity to connect with their memory on a deeper level.
Strengthening Family Bonds
Expressing love and gratitude in these documents fosters a sense of unity among family members, reducing the likelihood of conflicts and disputes in the future.
Empowering Future Generations
Life lessons and experiences can serve as a guide for younger generations, empowering them to make better decisions and navigate life's challenges.
Tips for Including Emotional Legacies in Your Estate Planning
Write a Personal Letter
Consider drafting a separate letter expressing your emotions, gratitude, and life lessons to be shared with your loved ones upon your passing. This is more common than many people realise, and helps loved ones connect with the deceased.
It is critically important to remember that any letter should never include instructions for the handling of physical assets. These should always be dealt with through a formal will, drafted by a solicitor, as there are specific requirements. It is also important that any letters do not contradict the wishes expressed in the will, such as particular gifts, exclusions or other unique arrangements.
Record a Video or Audio Message
A video or audio recording can capture your personality, voice, and emotions, leaving a lasting impression on your loved ones outside of the more structured legal framework of a Will.
Share Stories and Memories
Incorporate anecdotes and stories into your Will or supplementary documents that highlight significant events and experiences in your life, demonstrating the values that shaped you.
Discuss Your Wishes With Loved Ones
During your life, consider discussing your intentions and wishes with your family. This can help you navigate any potential concerns, and ensures that your wishes align with their expectations. This can also assist lawyers in building an appropriate estate plan to support your unique needs and situation before your death.
When it comes to estate planning, our emotional legacy (including our values, life lessons, and heartfelt emotions) is often overlooked. Whilst a Will, which is ultimately a clear legal framework for the disbursement of assets, is vitally important, so to is the legacy we leave on our loved ones.
By recognising the significance of an emotional legacy, we can create a more comprehensive and meaningful estate plan, including more informal documents, letters, recordings and more, that truly reflect who we are.
If you need assistance preparing appropriate estate planning documents, get in touch with our experienced estate lawyers today to ensure you leave a positive lasting legacy.
Disclaimer: This publication is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does it constitute legal advice. We are unable to ensure the information is current and there is no guarantee in relation to accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content of this publication. The views and/or opinions expressed in this publication is that of the author and may not necessarily represent the views and/or opinions of RHC Solicitors.
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