A Legacy with No Heirs: What You Can Still Leave Behind
When we pass on, what do we leave behind in our estate plan, and to whom? For some people, it is easy to think that they will just pass on their legacy to their children, grandchildren, and so forth. That being said, some people may have a harder time answering this question than others. Those who are single or childless are may wonder what they have to leave behind, and who the beneficiaries might be. It is important to know that a person’s legacy is not determined by their heirs. You are your legacy, and the life you live is the legacy you will ultimately leave behind, either by choice or by circumstance.
I Have No Kids, What Legacy Can I Leave Behind?
When we do not know what we can leave behind, either because we do not have children or by natural circumstance, it may be frightening to think, “What part of me can live on after I die?” A possible silver lining here is the fact that with children, we still have little to no control over what they choose to do with our legacy. They may choose a direction that we would not. Therefore, there is no actual way of having control over your legacy. Some people may choose to contribute to the greater good by means of coaching and mentoring or supporting charities while others seek to make lasting contributions to their careers.
For example sake, let’s look at some well-known figures who have found themselves in a similar situation. The founder of Texas Instruments, Cecil H. Green, is a non-parent and chose to leave her legacy behind by leaving large amounts of money to the world’s pre-eminent medical and educational institutions. Famous musicians like Beethoven or Luther Vandross left behind a catalog of their best hits. Of course, not everyone is rich, famous, or a notable person meant to inspire future generations. Now, let us delve into ways in which we can leave a lasting legacy for those who are single or childless.
How Do I Create An Estate Plan?
Essentially, you want to begin by getting everything in writing. It is most important to put a plan in place to begin because without the initial plan, it is uncertain where your legacy will lead to. Furthermore, develop a plan for where your money or assets will go, whether it be to loved ones, charities, or institutions, and put it in writing. Take the planning seriously, and determine what matters to you most in life, so that at the end of the day, you can find peace of mind for what you are leaving behind and passing on. Additionally, you want to obtain three essential documents including a valid will meeting all of the requirements of your legal state of residence, a power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. You even want to consider people as potential backups in the planning process. Without a plan on paper, the government will end up deciding where your money and assets go.
In What Ways Can I Preserve My Values, Family History, Legacy?
Once your plan is developed and in writing, you will want to consider preserving your family history. Perhaps you have favorite family recipes or writings of poetry and stories about adventures and mishaps throughout your life. Write letters sharing your values, hopes, and life lessons, or letters with the intent to inspire and motivate others. A handwritten letter is unique and personable, it shows people your personality through your own voice. A letter is about a conversation between at least two people, meant to connect them. Imagine an adopted child receiving a letter from their birth mother. Even though this child may have never met this woman, that child may feel a sort of connection through this letter. Leaving letters behind shows people your networks, and it makes them feel connected to the letter and the people in the conversation as well. You can also pass on any family heirlooms like pieces of jewelry and keepsakes you may have to loved ones like cousins, or nieces and nephews. Passing on these heirlooms is a great way to continue the family legacy.
Should I Donate to Charity?
Many childless individuals decide to put their money into schools to continue their legacy. Doing so is similar to what you would be leaving behind for your children, without the biological connection. Setting up academic scholarships in your name can help future generations prosper and are a great way to leave a legacy behind. It is important to keep in mind that if you choose to set up an academic scholarship, you should always be flexible with its plans in order to appeal to more students and be attainable to achieve. Another consideration for non-parents would be to take a more active role in a cause you are passionate about such as animal charities, health, societal and environmental charities, and various local organizations. Leaving money or assets to an organization that you deem worthy reflects your own personal values, and lives on with your legacy.
Above All Else – Execute!
Above all else, it is most important to have the initial plan to execute. Although people like Howard Hughes and Jimi Hendrix died without having wills, it is strongly encouraged that you set a plan to ensure that what you want to happen, actually happens. For many, memories and pictures are not enough, and they want to leave something tangible behind. Hopefully, this article provided you with insight as to how you can still leave a legacy behind despite not having children or heirs to pass it on. If you or a loved one are childless and are thinking about leaving assets behind, consult with a licensed estate planning attorney who will guide you through creating your estate plan and making sure your assets are properly distributed after you pass away.