After a celebrity passes away, I usually scour the internet to uncover details about their life and estate planning, or lack thereof. My goal is to normalize estate planning in order to engage and educate others about the importance of planning ahead and the consequences of failing to do so.
Last week, I was shocked to learn that actor Chadwick Boseman passed away far too soon at age of 43 years young. Already a big fan, I had some prior background information about Boseman’s acting roots and successful career portraying African American icons such as lawmaker and civil rights activist, Thurgood Marshall, and baseball legend, Jackie Robinson. Most recently, Boseman excited and inspired countless youths and adults when he played the world’s first black superhero, King T’Challa of Wakanda, in Marvel’s “Black Panther.”
Aside from a rundown of his acting credits, a common theme in the stories written about Chadwick Boseman reflect upon his lasting legacy. What impressed me the most was the way he was described as a person — courageous, resilient, fearless, selfless, graceful, passionate, dedicated, brilliant, heroic and inspiring. Even more heartening were the tributes from his fans around the world who honored the late actor through memorials and ceremonies like those seen in fictional Wakanda.
The more you learn about Chadwick Boseman, the more obvious it becomes that he was as much influential in his real life as he was on-screen, and his unfortunate and untimely passing leaves a void in our world. Whether or not it was his master plan, Boseman’s legacy will still live on in the hearts of his family, friends, and fans for generations to come.
With a spotlight shined on the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, I decided to switch up the narrative of this latest edition of estate planning lessons learned from celebrity deaths. Instead of discussing the need for protecting your material assets, I decided to focus on the importance of preserving and safeguarding your human assets. It is often given less attention, but legacy planning is vital and should be a part of every person’s estate plan; it is also very easy to accomplish.
Estate planning is more than leaving behind only your money and things
Even if you are not a celebrity with archives of online memorials, news articles, and a near infinite outreach like Chadwick Boseman, you, too, can leave behind a legacy to be remembered and celebrated by your family and loved ones.
The primary focus of traditional estate planning is your money and things, or your material wealth. This includes your bank accounts, stocks, other investments, a house, cars, furniture, clothing, jewelry, art, etc. A traditional estate plan helps you prepare for the end of your life by creating a roadmap for the protection, management and distributing your material wealth after you are gone; however, there are limitations. Most notably, traditional estate planning does not account for your intellectual, spiritual and human assets, otherwise known as your legacy.
The best things in life aren’t things.
More specifically, your legacy is made up of your accumulated wisdom, core values, morals, behaviors, life lessons, family traditions, community involvement, religious and spiritual beliefs, memories, stories, and experiences. These personal characteristics and thoughtful decisions have guided you throughout your lifetime and helped you achieve your material wealth and other successes. This is why passing down your legacy may be just as important to you, if not more important, as passing down your money and things.
Starting your legacy planning
Before you can decide how you want to incorporate your legacy into your estate plan, you need to take some time to decide what you want your legacy to be. You may want to think about how important your parents and elder family members are to you as you grow older. Consider the lessons they taught you, the stories they told you, the legacy they passed on to you. Maybe you are already starting to pass the same on to your kids. Maybe you have your own ideas of how you want to raise your kids and have started your own family traditions.
If you are a parent, ask yourself the following questions:
- How would you feel if you passed away when your kids were too young to remember what your voice sounded like?
- How would you feel if your kids never got to know your thoughts and insights on certain issues?
- How would you feel if your kids never got to laugh at jokes you wanted to tell or to hear stories about life experiences you wanted to share?
- How would you feel if your kids continue to get older, possibly becoming parents themselves, and they have no idea what made you who you were?
Aside from your values, morals, faith and beliefs, your legacy may also include any publicly accessible social media content; even those from high school and college. So, you may want to delete any videos or posts that you would not want your children or grandchildren to find when they get older. Because they will find those posts when they older! It is important to understand that your legacy is both within and outside of your control, so it is advisable to control the narrative that you want to pass on to future generations.
Incorporate legacy planning into your overall estate plan
Creating and preserving your personal legacy is the best way to ensure your loved ones always remember who you are and what is important to you. This can be accomplished by simply writing letters, taping audio messages, and recording videos to share with younger generations, or through the use of more traditional estate planning tools.
It is important to understand that legacy planning does not take the place of traditional estate planning. Rather, legacy planning should be woven into your overall estate plan.
One common traditional estate planning tool that can help you preserve your legacy is a living trust. As the creator of the trust, you have the ability to use the trust terms you create to weave aspects of your legacy into the trust. For example, if the importance of higher education is a core belief of yours, you could establish an education trust that includes terms which provide that assets held in the trust can only be used to pay for post-secondary educational expenses.
If your faith is a vital part of who you are and how you live your life, you could also use a trust to continue to make charitable donations to a religious organization. A traditional Last Will and Testament is also used as a legacy planning tool when used to make outright gifts to charities that are close to your heart.
Another legacy planning tool is a written directive to the guardian of your minor children. This straightforward method of passing down your legacy within your estate plan allows you to provide guidance and instruction to the person(s) that have been appointed to care for your minor children in your absence. Providing a written directive to guardians is an opportunity to share your beliefs and values on schooling/education, finances, community, culture, emotions, ethics, charity, fitness, religion/spirituality, discipline, parenting, and much more. Although not legally binding, written directives to the guardians of your minor children can be an excellent way to let future generations know what you believe to be your legacy and what you hope they inherit from that legacy.
Consult with an estate planning lawyer to assist with your legacy planning
Working with an experienced estate planning lawyer is the best way to ensure that your personal legacy is documented, preserved, and shared with your family and loved ones. Estate planning does not have to be complicated and can help avoid family turmoil, time consuming and costly probate court, and unnecessary stress on your loved ones during an already difficult time.
If you are interested in learning more about how to preserve your personal legacy and how this invaluable asset should be included in any estate plan, schedule a no-cost initial consultation with me today.
Rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman. #WakandaForever
Photo credit: Chadwick Boseman (Instagram)