When we were young, I think this was the most asked question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?"
Now that we are grown up (and hopefully are who we wanted to be), what have we done? For some people that is an invitation to list the jobs they’ve had, the places they‘ve been, and the people they’ve loved.
For others, their dreams were cut short through injury or change in circumstances, through no fault of their own.
Many of our dreams may have changed and most of us haven’t managed to bring world peace or “save the world”, but some of us have been on a great holiday, fallen in love, graduated from university, or perhaps even own our dream car or home.
And most of us have discovered that, actually, the secret to happiness is not things, as we first thought, but people. And this has become even more apparent with COVID-19; you can own the nicest house and the flashiest car but, without relationships, we are lost.
Many people want to make a difference whilst they are on this earth but what about after we are gone?
Leaving a legacy is a way to make some meaning of your existence: “Yes world, I was here, and here is my contribution - this is why I hope my life mattered!” In fact, right now, someone might be teaching their own child to fish or bake a specific recipe - or even tying their shoelaces, because of what you taught them!
Most of what we leave the world will be memories - memories that only form through being with our loved ones through relationships.
Researching your genealogy is a wonderful way to let your children and grandchildren understand where you and they came from. You don’t need to research your whole family tree - why not just provide what you know of your family history and include anecdotes and feelings - your personal story to describe your relationships with both family and friends? You don’t have to write it down; you could record yourself talking or even make a video!
You might want to write a legacy letter. Think about everything you would want to tell your loved ones if you knew you didn’t have long to live and put it all into a letter to them. Or create a video as a way to speak directly to them, to say all those things you wish you had told them before? This is a great way to ensure people know how much joy your relationship with them brought to you and how are you hope they will find happiness after you are gone.
You could write a will to say how you would like your possessions and finances to be distributed or set up a family trust that carries on distributing your money for you, long after you have gone (and can also avoid inheritance tax!)
Another way is to prepare an ethical will, this is just a logical extension of your legacy letter. It’s not about who will receive your possessions, it’s more about why certain possessions will go to specific people. Again, you can do this as an oral recording or a video, or just write it all down, you might even want to make a scrapbook with photographs and anecdotes attached.
An ethical will is a way of telling your personal story, tying together what you have accomplished, how you have lived, and what you hope your heirs will take from you. It’s a way of still “being in the room” - which is the point of leaving a legacy.
After providing for loved ones, many people choose to leave money to their favourite charity and as you already support us – it might be something you would like to consider?
It’s easy to do and you don’t have to rewrite your whole will, you can just add a codicil - a dated letter, signed by you and two witnesses (who must not be beneficiaries of your will) stating that you wish to leave a specific sum to charity (see an example codicil form here). Then leave the codicil wherever you keep your will so that it can be easily found.
Even if you feel like you haven’t achieved everything that you had hoped - there is still time! If you are not dead, you are not done and there are many ways to keep sharing yourself with the world!