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The Dean Law Firm Blog

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Deeper Look at Legacy

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “all good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.” Whenever we ask our clients what sort of legacy they intend to leave, most are surprised. Our clients believed that they were creating a will or a trust to ensure security for the present and future – but did not imagine it as a tool that would provide a legacy for future generations.

When it comes to estate planning, people tend to think about “legacy” as the transfer of wealth and assets. While this is true, there are many other aspects to leaving a legacy. What values do you hope to pass on to the next generation and beyond? What are the stories that define your family history or your family culture? Who have you invested in throughout your lifetime?

Estate planning is more than a will or a trust. It is the coordination of many facets for the maximum impact of leaving a legacy beyond your time on earth. The opposite, a lost legacy, is marked by the pain felt by its lack of existence. Many people know the frustration that accompanies the probate of an estate without a will, or the altercations and partitions within a family when the relatives are left to divide property between themselves and pay creditors out of pocket. What’s left in the end are broken relationships, a diminished estate, and many family heirlooms or precious property being sold to pay creditors. There may not be anything left to provide for your children or to pass on to the next generation. Simply put, a lost legacy leaves future generations directionless, puts a strain on family relationships, and has many unforeseen tax consequences that your family will bear.

If you view legacy as a responsibility, it works as a roadmap, providing security and clear direction to your family as they navigate selling property and liquidating assets, while providing comfort while they are grieving your loss. It preserves your assets for your intentions, and more importantly, it preserves family relationships.

When deciding what estate plan to use, you must first determine your ultimate goal. Do you have a goal of asset protection? Providing for your children? Donating to charity? These decisions will drive the coordination of your estate plan. To have an asset protection impact, you can use irrevocable trusts, spendthrift trusts, and trusts to qualify for government assistance, such as Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts (MAPTS) and Veteran’s Asset Protection Trusts (VAPTS). To have a generational impact, you can utilize lifetime trusts, gifting trusts, and retirement inheritance trusts to stretch the trust’s effectiveness through your children’s lifetimes. To have a charitable impact, you can implement charitable gifts, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, and private foundations.

All of these goals are instrumental in determining your legacy. The above options, and more, will help you achieve your intentions. In this way, your responsibility to leave a legacy becomes a gift to future generations, and your legacy will have a continued impact for years, long after you have passed on from this world.  

Julia Dean is the managing attorney at The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, a boutique law firm practicing in estate planning, probate, guardianships, elder law, and civil appeals. Mrs. Dean has been recognized as a Top Attorney and Leading Advisor by Acquisition International, Forbes, Newsweek, H Texas, Houstonia, and the Sugar Land Sun, and has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s Client Distinction Award. The Dean Law Firm is committed to bringing you peace of mind by providing thoughtful estate planning for your family.

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