5 Best Ways to Plan Your Life and Legacy

5 Best Ways to Plan Your Life and Legacy (and Worry Less and Live More)

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?

5 Best Ways to Plan Your Life and Legacy

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:


  1. Get (or update) your will (otherwise known as a last will and testament).

Tandy Elisala LegalShield Associate bit.ly/coachtandyls

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. A will names your beneficiaries, the people you want to benefit from your assets and details who gets what possessions.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).


  1. 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.


  1. 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:

  • Household
  • Financial
  • Social Media (btw, did you know you can create legacy contacts in Facebook?)
  • Business
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Computer/technology
  • 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.

  1. Preserve family history and traditions.

Family Picture

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:

  1. Create and complete a legacy journal; answering questions about your life, beliefs, experiences, thoughts, dreams, goals, life highlights and much more.
  2. Share history of pictures.
  3. Share the history of precious material items.
  4. Create scrapbooks of your life.
  5. 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.
  6.  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.
  7. Compile a cookbook with favorite family recipes.
  8. Have family reunions where multiple generations come together and talk about family history.
  9. Research and share genealogy records.
Storytelling is a huge way to create and preserve your legacy. Click To Tweet

  1. Live your life with passion and purpose EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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.  

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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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23 replies
  1. PhotoOrganizer1227
    PhotoOrganizer1227 says:

    These are awesome tips! Thanks so much.
    This post brings FOREVER.com to mind – have you heard of it? It’s the only cloud storage company on the market that guarantees preservation of all your photos for your lifetime plus 100 years. It also offers preservation settings so you can designate an manager of your account after you pass.
    As far as keeping a legacy of your family memories, FOREVER can’t be beat! I’ve been using for over a year and have never felt so certain that my photo legacy is secure.

  2. Rachel Lavern
    Rachel Lavern says:

    Picture Your 80th Party

    I have prepared a will and I recently began thinking of the legacy I will leave. I like Stephen Covey shared about imagining your funeral at 80 years old and consider what people will miss about me, what positive attributes they associate with me, etc.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Yes Yes, Rachel! THIS 80th birthday visual is a great way to get clear about our legacy and how we want to be remembered.

  3. Teresa Salhi
    Teresa Salhi says:

    Great resource Tandy. I have started this myself and even more so after helping my mama after her beloved passed away. I am back with her again and planning a move now. They did document a little but did not have a will, she does now and has made me her POA. I have learned from her experience to make sure I don’t have any of these gaps in my own life. Your resources give me more ideas and I really appreciate that. Thank you for sharing your experiences, pains and empowering lessons. It really helps greatly. 🙂

  4. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    Great resource Tandy. I have started this and more so since helping my mama after her beloved past away. I am here with her again and now planning a move for her. They documented some but not all and did not have a will. I have done this with her as she appointed me her POA. I have learned so much from her situation that I got busy working on putting some planning in place in my own life that was still lacking. Your resource here gives me more ideas too about my website and what do with it. Thanks my dear for sharing your painful and empowering journey.

  5. Joyce Hansen
    Joyce Hansen says:

    I like that you added the part about passwords, online accounts, and related content. I think Facebook has a procedure for closing an account of a deceased relative. I’m sometimes spooked seeing the name of a friend who has passed when they turn up in one of the social media connection feeds.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Joyce, yes, Facebook has a process for closing the accounts for deceased people or making it a ‘remembering’ account. I set up a legacy contact in Facebook to help the process when the time comes.

  6. Alene A Geed
    Alene A Geed says:

    Tandy. This post is a great reminder for me. My parents are long since departed but we are coming upon the time when my husband and I need to prepare the other one for the inevitable. We have already taken several important steps, but I can see that there is more to be done. Making our transition easier for our loved ones is another way we can express our love for them

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Yes, Alene! So glad you and your husband have taken steps to prepare. I think it’s hard to be at peace when our loved ones are struggling.

  7. Reba Linker
    Reba Linker says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Tandy. Just yesterday a good friend was telling me about starting to write down her family stories and recipes for her daughter. I guess this idea is coming to me from several sides and I must take note. I like all the practical advice, and your last bit of advice, to live life to the fullest, is surely the best and wisest legacy we could leave!

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Reba, it’s interesting when we get messages from multiple sources, isn’t it!?! It’s definitely a sign to take action. I know you live life to the fullest, Reba.

  8. Candess M. Campbell, PhD
    Candess M. Campbell, PhD says:

    This is a great reminder Tandy and my plan for this fall. Families are different and whether your family functions well or not, with grief, its difficult for many to think. It’s like walking through water. Talking with them about what you like for your service can be good too. My granddaughter Noel and I were talking on a trip back from Montana. She played for me one of her favorite Vocaloid songs on her iPad. Then I shared with her my favorite Leonard Cohen song. After listening she said “Grandma I’ll sing that at your funeral.” I am delighted!

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Oh my goodness, Candess. Thank you SO much for sharing your beautiful story about your granddaughter and your favorite Leonard Cohen song. This warms my heart so much that you both connected in such a deep way.

  9. Beverley Golden
    Beverley Golden says:

    This is an amazing resource you’ve offered us all, Tandy! I have been thinking about my need to update my will recently and once I come home from AZ, that is something I will take action to do.

    Having training in biography work, I also completely agree with you about documenting family history and telling stories. My brother has been amazing at recording conversations with family members and he just sent me three audios he did with long-deceased aunts from 1985. We have documented my mother’s stories, as at 101, she is literally the last one standing and has a great memory that other family members love to hear. Of course, I have written about her and my dad in both my book and my articles.

    Personally, I started to keep a book of online sites and user names and passwords as well and know there is more to record for my daughter. It’s so important to be proactive and not leave ‘a mess’ for family to sort out after we’re gone!

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Oh yes, Beverley! Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s SO great to know that you are on top of it – as usual! It’s hard to be at peace when we die leaving chaos!

  10. Cathy Sykora
    Cathy Sykora says:

    Great advice Tandy. Everyone should have thought through more of this stuff and been prepared. It’s hard enough to grieve without being overwhelmed with the decisions or challenges that could have been easily made ahead.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thank you, Cathy! I agree that the more decisions we can make now the better off our loved ones will be when we are gone. I also think living our passion is a huge part of living more:-)

  11. Tamuria
    Tamuria says:

    Great advice, Tandy. A lot of people tend to put this off because they don’t want to think about it, but it really isn’t fair on loved ones left behind. Hubby and I updated our wills earlier this year and ensured we had our POA and. enduring guardianship sorted. I’ve been telling my sons, much to their dismay, my wishes regarding my body when I go. I’m in the process of documenting accounts and subscriptions and also making a digital estate plan to make it easier for them to close my Facebook and other accounts. Each year, I write a letter to each of the Goddesses and stash it away in their treasure chests, which they will be given when they turn 18. Hopefully, these will cover family history and traditions.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Tamuria! I love that you are so prepared and I adore you for writing annual letters to your family. I used to do this for my kids too. I want to resume this practice!


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