When many of us hear the term “legacy”, our minds often drift to trust funds and sports cars, vacation homes and priceless antiques.
Equally so, “legacy planning” sounds like the domain of the ultra-rich, which most of us are not and will never be.
But legacies are more than just items of high financial value. Each of us has a legacy to pass on to our children and future descendants, and gathering that legacy together before passing from this Earth is not just a responsibility we owe our loved ones, but one of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon them as well.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines legacy as ‘Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.’ Not one mention of Rolls-Royces or condos in Hawaii in there, was there?
Legacies are defined by the person who creates them, and while wills and estate planning are very much a part of legacy planning, they often pale in compare to the wealth of knowledge that can be transferred via photographs, memories, and life lessons learned and shared.
If you’re a fifth-generation Texan, for example, you might trace your roots back to the time when the state was its own Republic, or might have even had an ancestor who fought against Santa Ana at the Alamo or San Jacinto. Imagine if that person had the wherewithal and the resources to transcribe his life story so that 175 years later you could share his principles, memories, and convictions. Your ancestor didn’t have that power, but you do – thanks to modern technology and the gift of time as you enter retirement.
Consider sharing your memories of life events, special occasions, and lessons learned for future generations by writing them down – either in a journal or on a computer. Word processors are a snap to learn, even if you are a computer novice, and the Internet offers many resources to store your writing safely and securely, so you never have to worry about losing your documents in a fire, robbery, or because of a computer failing or getting broken.
If the written word isn’t your thing, have no fear. You can also put your words into an audio file, and save it to a computer or onto tapes or CDs for future generations’ enjoyment. Near the end of his life, my grandfather sat down with one of my aunts for several hours over a week’s time. She had prepared questions from her own childhood memories, and asked him questions about growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1920s and 1930s, about his involvement in World War II, meeting and marrying my grandmother, and working for an oil giant, laying a massive pipeline across much of the South. The total run time is about 1-1/2 hours, and preserves perfectly his memories of days gone by; not to mention allowing me to hear his voice perfectly anytime I want to, even though he passed away 18 years ago.
If you have old photos, the Internet and personal computers are also a great way to not only share these with your loved ones, but make sure they are not lost to decay, wear, sun / light damage, or fire, you can easily use a scanner or go to a store like Kinko’s or FedEx and have your photos scanned and placed on a CD or DVD.
Alternatively, you can scan them yourself and upload them to an Internet storage site such as Flickr.com or Google Drive, where you can keep them, add cutlines, and share and send them to anyone you wish who has an email address.
Using the Internet to preserve your legacy can be a wise choice, because it largely prevents your loved ones from having to search your home or shuffle through endless paperwork to find the important documents necessary to honoring your final wishes and dispersing your estate as you see fit.
There are a number of new legacy solutions popping up online that offer to act as your “vault” for your most important requests and wishes, only allowing access to those people whose names you supply the company, thus significantly reducing potential conflict among loved ones or interested third parties who might erroneously believe they are entitled to particular items from your estate.
Leaving our children to grieve our deaths is one of the most painful thoughts a person can have, but doing so with the knowledge that that grief process will be interrupted by forcing them to try and compile legal and financial documents at the same time is something no parent would wish upon a loved one.
If you are interested in preserving your memory, whether online, on paper, or both, feel free to enlist concierge services right here in the community. And if you don’t have a computer of your own, you may be able to use the business center as well, which offers free computer usage.
Remember, a legacy does not have to a house in the hills or a private island. The truest legacy we can give our children is the gift of who we are and what life meant to us.
Discovery Village At Tampa Palms offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 813.437.9731