Creating a Legacy That Honors Your Loved Ones
Part Three of Three
Welcome to the last of a three-part series: Creating a Legacy That Honors Your Loved Ones.
This time of year is typically a time for family, food, fun, memories, giving
thanks, laughter and more. In part one, I shared the point in life when I realized
I could affect our future generations and what information they would have about
those who came before us. In fact, it wasn’t until becoming a caregiver for both of
my parents that I realized if I wanted my kids to know more about our family history,
we needed to proactively seek the information. I shared five things I learned through
The things I learned about my parents brought me peace and helped me see their world
through their eyes. This was a priceless gift for us all. In part two, I shared what I learned
and the profound affect it had on my healing. In putting puzzle pieces together about
their lives, I saw them as the individual man and woman they were beyond their roles of
‘mom and dad’. I also shared legacy categories and questions you can put into practice today.
In this last series, we explore how I used our legacy practice to reignite a family tradition of
my own and, because part of our legacy is the practical side of things, we touch on the medical,
life and financial aspects of our legacies. Enjoy!
Reigniting Family Tradition
I found so much value in this process, I resumed my
own family tradition of writing my kids annual letters about the year,
key milestones we experienced, and the things I was most proud of that
year. I included a few key things they wrote, made, or did that year, sealed
up the envelopes, labeled them for the year, and put instructions
for the kids to open their envelopes when I decided to give it to them.
Somewhere along the line life became too busy and I didn’t make time
for this anymore or perhaps wrongly thought the kids were too old.
Given everything I’ve learned about my parents and reflecting as a
parent myself, I feel one of the greatest gifts we can give our children
other than values, core beliefs and life skills to become responsible
adults one day is our heartfelt feelings of love and pride. With tearful
eyes and a smile from ear to ear, I love recalling favorite childhood
memories and our hopes and dreams for them. I can’t imagine how
long I would probably still be crying had I had something like this
from my parents. Especially now, as a parent myself, knowing and
feeling the immense, unconditional love from my parents and for my
children, this will make a profound impact on my peace of mind and
strengthen our relationships even more.
Legal, Financial and Medical Affairs
An equally important aspect of one’s legacy is ensuring all legal,
medical, and financial affairs are in order. Based on an unrelated
surgery in 2005, my dad spent quality time putting everything together
we needed. My dad documented his life, including website user names
and passwords, what associations he belonged to and their contact
information, what life insurance policies he had where for him and my
mom and their account numbers and company contact information. He
documented his brokerage, bank and credit card accounts, and account
numbers, information about their homes.
Additionally, he documented his life chronology, including timelines for
all his addresses from birth to present; including his employer history,
pension information, years worked, and salary history. He even
documented all the places he was stationed while in the military.
My dad was prepared for anything and now I was prepared; at least to
an extent. At the time, I thought I was completely ready. Yep, got
the envelope with everything in it and I’m ready. The reality is while
this is wildly important, when it comes to care giving, it’s just the
beginning. More on that in another post.
Having a complete life history was one of the best things he ever did aside
from having my sister and me. Having these documents was like winning the
lottery when I needed to open the envelope. It probably felt like winning the
lottery because everything was together in one, tight, neat package. This proved
invaluable for many reasons, including working with his memory
recall. During hospital stays, I shared this information with his
occupational and speech therapists, which helped determine his brain
and memory patterns, decipher fact from fiction, and aid in figuring
out how he was putting his ‘brain puzzle’ together.
On the topic of estate planning, if you don’t already have a
Durable or Medical Power of Attorney (POA), you need to run
somewhere and get this done today. Had my mother been dead at the
time of my dad’s accident, I would have had a much, much harder
time with things. Also, in my experience, you can grant someone a
blanket POA to take affect whenever they deem appropriate or you can
make the POA effective in the event you become incapacitated.
In which case, mortgage companies, banks, employers and the like will
require documented proof of incapacity, along with the POA document
to be valid. It can take time to get this proof and be able to do what
you need to do.
I also learned some banks use their own guidelines
about what documentation they will accept. With a properly executed
durable POA that was good enough for all things big and small, one
bank in particular required very specific wording and said it wasn’t
good enough. Wow. The US Government, mortgage companies and
most banks accepted this documentation, yet one bank wouldn’t.
Coming from higher education where colleges and universities
have their own policies about credit transferability, admissions, and
the like, I understood it. I just didn’t agree in this case!
These are just some of the challenges POAs deal with. I strongly
suggest you do your research and seek legal counsel when creating or
updating a POA and other medical/estate documents.
Details Details Details
I implore you to document your life history and get estate planning
in order. Do it today. Married, single, kids, no kids, homes, no homes, it
doesn’t matter. You have a responsibility document your wishes, decide
ahead of time who you want to act on your behalf either as a medical
power of attorney or general power of attorney.
Do you want doctors to save your life at all costs, even if it means living in a
persistent, vegetative state? Do you want your closest relative/next of kin
to make decisions for you? In what circumstances do you want others to make
decisions for you? Do you trust they will act in your best interests? Be
sure the person you designate knows and agrees to this responsibility.
Have a back up designee. If you designate your spouse and you are both
In a car accident, someone else needs to pick up the ball and take care
of things for you. Ensure everyone knows where the paperwork is.
Sometimes, it’s all in the details!
In this article, I weaved things I did well and things I discovered along the
way. I recommend everyone document their history and share stories
while tending to important legal matters less commonly discussed.
I recommend doing these things NOW before you are faced with family
members or yourself needing to act quickly. I preface information contained
here with a disclaimer that you should consult an attorney, CPA, or other
professional for advice on how to proceed with your particular situation.
“Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children
and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are
only wilted leaves on the tree of live.”
~ Albert Einstein
We have no promise of tomorrow. If you suddenly died, would
your family know how you felt, what you were most proud of, who
influenced you the most and why, or what your favorite traditions were
growing up? Is it clear who has legal authority to act on your behalf?
There are so many aspects to creating a legacy. Practical matters such
as ensuring loved ones are protected and care received is according to
expressed wishes are important. Equally important is ensuring stories
are shared so they can live on for generations to come. This is time
that must be invested. Start today. There is no time like the present!
If you missed part one of this series, you can read it here.
If you missed part two of this series, you can read it here.
Live your life. Share your stories. Inspire future generations.
Creating a Legacy is such an important topic that I dedicated an entire chapter on the subject. Go to http://www.tandyelisala.com for information about my new book, Healing Through the Chaos: Practical Care Giving.
Tandy Elisala Bio Pic
Tandy Elisala, MA, CPSC, ACT, CHt, TFT-fAlg, is Founder and CEO of Center for Inspiring Greatness. ™ Tandy is a Care Giving Expert, Certified Professional Success Coach, Author and Consultant. She is certified in various alternative-healing modalities. Tandy has 25 years’ proven experience as a corporate executive, speaker and coach. Tandy was a full-time caregiver for both parents simultaneously while kicking cancer’s butt a third time and raising three children as a single parent. Tandy lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her three kids, two dogs, and three cats. Tandy’s book, Healing Through the Chaos: Practical Care-Giving is available for pre-order at http://www.tandyelisala.com.
© Copyright 2013, Tandy Elisala, http://www.centerforinspiringgreatness.com and http://www.tandyelisala.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline and bio, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Tandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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