5 Best Ways to Plan Your Life and Legacy (so you Worry Less and Live More)
Planning your life and legacy in a way that allows you to worry less and live more is something we all ‘should do’ but how many of us take action?
As a four-time cancer thriver and former family caregiver who left her 23-year corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously and very unexpectedly for 2 ½ years, I really appreciate the power of life and legacy. A few months before my mother’s passing, her dad died of brain cancer. I knew when my grandpa died because I woke up at 3:11am, sat on the side of my bed and sent him love. I just knew he was gone. At 3:15am, the phone rang. It was my aunt telling me he died. When I woke my mom and dad up to share the not so good news, I couldn’t help but think about my parents and when I would be facing the situation they were in at this very moment.
We all expect to bury our parents and grandparents. That’s the natural order of things. It doesn’t take away the pain, grief, sadness, anger, overwhelm or stress of everything that inevitably comes with death, grief, and building resilience.
Here’s the million-dollar question. How many people do you know that have died and left spouses, partners, children and parents to face the difficult burden of all that comes with life after the death of a loved one?
I’m wildly passionate about planning for the unexpected and building my legacy in various ways so my grown kids (29, 24, 21) and I can worry less and live more. Living more is part of building a legacy you can be proud of.
Living more is part of building a legacy you can be proud of. Click To Tweet
Here are 5 best ways to plan your life and legacy:
Get (or update) your will (otherwise known as a last will and testament).
You knew that was coming, right? According to USA Today, 64% of Americans DON’T HAVE A WILL! There is only one certainty in life… we will all die. I understand that dying is uncomfortable to talk and think about. I get that it’s difficult to budget for something that we expect will happen in the far and distant future. Here are a few good reasons to get or update your will today:
- Without a will (or trust), your family will spend a LOT of time and money going through probate in your state to get access to your assets. Do you want your family to deal with this on top of grieving for their loss? Are you willing to gamble with everything you’ve worked your whole life for?
- A will is the only way to ensure your wishes are followed. Want a certain percentage of money to go to a specific charity? Want your money distributed to your children with certain parameters (like x% available after a certain age or after a specific event in their life)? Having peace of mind today ensures you have and your family have peace of mind tomorrow.
- A will names your beneficiaries, the people you want to benefit from your assets and details who gets what possessions.
- A will allows you to choose an executor who manages the distribution of your assets. If you don’t have a will, a court-appointed person will manage this.
- A will allows you to choose a guardian to finish raising any minor children. If you die without a will, the court will name a guardian for your children. This ALONE is a reason to have a will!
If you have $5 in your account, you have assets. You need a will!If you have $5 in your account, you have assets. You need a will! http://bit.ly/coachtandyls Click To Tweet
NOTE: There are different kinds of trusts you can create. A living trust, for example, is separate from your will and is often used in place of a will to avoid probate.
NOTE: There is also something called a Living Will. A living will is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their wishes. However, it has no power after death. It generally addresses issues specific to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR).
Get a durable power of attorney (POA).
This is a legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act in your place. In the event you become incapacitated, a durable POA allows someone to handle medical care AND financial decisions on your behalf. If you prefer, you can get a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to specifically allow someone else to make decisions about your health care in the event you are incapacitated. A health care POA won’t address financial decisions. When my dad became incapacitated, his durable POA allowed me to manage all his affairs. This was invaluable.
You may have heard of a general power of attorney. What’s the difference between the two? If a power of attorney is durable, it remains valid and in effect even if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. A power of attorney document does not explicitly say that the power is durable, meaning, it ends if you become incapacitated.
You may also have heard of a living will. What’s the difference between a durable POA and a living will? The key difference is a living will delineates your wishes specifically, whereas a POA allows someone else – your agent – to make health care decisions for you. A living will has no power after death.
Document all your accounts, subscriptions, memberships, and medical information.
When my dad was hit by a semi amid a 20+ car pileup and suffered severe Traumatic Brain Injury, I was never more thankful for his thoroughness in putting together a list of all his accounts, subscriptions, and memberships. He had everything categorized and included account numbers and online login information. This proved immensely helpful as I navigated all the issues of knowing what to cancel and who to notify. However, this list was two years old. By the time his accident hit and he was incapacitated, there were changes and annoyances I had to deal with. Still, it was very helpful and met most of the needs.
Years ago, I started the same thing. I’ve documented every account and membership. It includes account numbers, online website address, login name, password, password recovery information, customer service #’s.
I’ve categorized everything by:
- Social Media (btw, did you know you can create legacy contacts in Facebook?)
- Everything else
I took it a step further and created a document specifically for my business that includes:
- An outline of what each business account is (ie: Go Daddy for website hosting and domains, Aweber for email communication, Zoom for video conferencing, etc…) Then, I wrote down the amounts, the day it comes out of the bank, what account it comes from. For things I pay annually, I wrote down when items are up for renewal. Then, I identified the things that they may choose to keep; such as the hundreds of articles on my website. I hinted that they may want to use these articles for something before deleting/bringing down the website.
- My budget document allows the kids to see how much each item is and when it comes out of my accounts.
Lastly, I keep all my medical information updated. This information includes:
- My allergies and allergic symptoms
- My medication list, dosages, when taken and why taken
- My medical history
- My medical provider contact list
Between all of this, they are covered. I update the lists quarterly. Just like you would update standard operating procedures at work as things change, it’s important to keep your ‘life’ documented and updated.
Funny story about my dad (I can laugh about it now). It took me almost a year to get some things to stop charging on his account. There were several monthly subscriptions that were charged monthly and it took some doing to figure out what these were and provide the documentation needed to stop all the charges. One big ticket item hit his account a few months after his death and we were all caught by surprise. As someone who has been there and done that, I can tell you that having everything documented for my family gives ME peace of mind! I know they won’t spend a year trying to figure things out.
Preserve family history and traditions.
Storytelling is a huge way to create and preserve your legacy. Our family constantly shared stories. Here are some ways you can ensure your family’s legacy lives on:
- Create and complete a legacy journal; answering questions about your life, beliefs, experiences, thoughts, dreams, goals, life highlights and much more.
- Share history of pictures.
- Share the history of precious material items.
- Create scrapbooks of your life.
- Interview your family or have them interview you. Record it via video. Blog about it. I wrote articles about the interviews I did with my kids separately. I asked them the same questions and it was fascinating to hear their answers. You can check out these articles here, here and here.
- Create a family history story book. Have different members of the family document special stories and compile everything in a binder. In the age of social media and technology, you can easily keep everything together for everyone to have.
- Compile a cookbook with favorite family recipes.
- Have family reunions where multiple generations come together and talk about family history.
- Research and share genealogy records.
I am wildly passionate about this! There are no mistakes. Everyone has a divine blueprint. The sooner we realize our passion and purpose in life, the sooner we can take consistent imperfect action towards it every day. In the end, our lives will be measured in one sentence – two if we’re lucky. Pick your sentence TODAY! How do YOU want to be remembered?In the end, our lives will be measured in one sentence – two if we’re lucky. Pick your sentence TODAY! Click To Tweet
NEXT STEPS: If you are one of the 64% of Americans that don’t have a will or it’s been awhile since you’ve updated your will or if you don’t have a Power of Attorney, check out this video for information about LegalShield. We help you WORRY LESS and LIVE MORE! Go to my website at http://bit.ly/coachtandyls for more information. Watch this video for information on how you can easily protect your family for a very affordable monthly rate.
Join our Facebook community at http://www.facebook.com/groups/EmpoweredFamilyCaregiver
©Copyright 2003-Present All rights reserved
Latest posts by Tandy Elisala (see all)
- Family Caregiving – A Stepping Stone to a Career - February 8, 2019
- Empowered Family Caregiver Blog Interview Highlights with Crystal Kelliher - January 3, 2019
- 7 Ways to Survive Being a Sandwiched Family Caregiver - December 19, 2018