Estate PlanninG

7 Ways to Leave Behind a Legacy (Without a Lot of Money)

What do you picture when you hear the word “inheritance”? Do you imagine a mansion on a hill, a Mercedes Benz, or maybe a pile of cash sitting in a bank vault?

The truth is, you don’t need a lot of money to leave behind a legacy for your family. In fact, by prioritizing the following seven things, you can leave behind an inheritance that will last longer than money.

1. Make a plan

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you don’t have an overflowing bank account you don’t need an estate plan.

Estate planning is more than passing down wealth to the next generation. It also involves deciding who will receive your property, possessions, and items. It involves making your wishes known about burial arrangements and end-of-life care decisions. Have you ever seen a family torn apart because no one can agree on who will get the family jewelry? Have you ever been around people who were agonizing over how much to spend on their parent’s caskets and other burial arrangements? It happens all the time because people didn’t make a plan for their loved ones to follow.

Your loved ones being able to carry out your wishes after you die starts with a crystal-clear understanding of what those wishes are. You can express these wishes and make sure they’re honored with an estate plan.

Whether or not you have much money, you can leave an important legacy to your family simply by making a plan.

2. Avoid unnecessary expenses

Many things are more important than money.

But there’s nothing wrong with trying to preserve the money you have.

By avoiding unnecessary estate administration expenses, such as probate, you can leave more money in your family’s hands.

If you own property, such as a home, you can avoid probate by creating a trust and transferring your property into the trust or by using a transfer-on-death deed, if your state’s law allows that. If you have bank accounts, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies, you can avoid probate by using payable-on-death designations, transfer-on-death registrations, and beneficiary designations or by transferring the accounts into a trust.

If your estate’s value is below a certain limit, small-estate proceedings allow the transfer of property by a simple affidavit, but the limit amounts vary from state to state. So it’s important to understand what your state’s limits are and rely on the affidavit option only as a last resort.

A small amount of effort up front by setting up such types of designations can save a lot in later expenses and delays. Don’t add to your family’s stress and grief after you die by making them pay unnecessary expenses.

3. Write personal letters

How special do you feel when you receive a handwritten letter?

Writing personalized letters to your family members costs little to no money, but can be incredibly valuable and sentimental. You could share stories of your life, give encouragement or advice, or express how much you love them. Imagine if a grandparent wrote a letter to their grandchild commemorating a special occasion (such as their high school graduation) with the grandparent’s memories of that grandchild. This type of personal letter would make the grandchild feel closer to their grandparent more than any possession money could buy.

4. Create meaningful family traditions

Family traditions are a wonderful and lasting legacy. Think of some of your favorite family traditions and how much they mean to you. They’re so special because they can be completely tailored to your family’s interests and priorities, they can be started at any time, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money.

Many traditions revolve around holidays, such as picnics at the lake on the Fourth of July or making special cookies to set out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Maybe your family has traditions around the Super Bowl or Friday night movies.

It’s never too late to start making traditions. Your imagination is the only limit to creating a fun tradition that your family looks forward to and repeats for years to come.

5. Sentimental family heirlooms

Heirlooms may or may not be worth much money, but their sentimental value can be enormous. From Grandma’s wedding dress to the trunk that Great-great-grandpa used to haul his possessions across the sea when he emigrated to the US, such heirlooms are a treasured part of a family’s legacy.

With heirlooms, especially ones that look very old, It’s important to record the story of the item’s significance so it’s not accidentally thrown out or given away.

6. Photos

A photo is worth more than a thousand words, and sometimes, it’s worth more than a thousand dollars.

You can create a special and unique family history with photos by snapping photos of everyday family activities as well as big family events.

Be sure to go through old family photos you already own, because you may be the keeper of some of the only surviving photos of certain ancestors. Helping younger generations understand who their grandparents and great-grandparents were with pictures that can put faces to names is a valuable legacy to leave.

7. A detailed family history

A person can derive identity and strength from knowing where they came from, what struggles and challenges their ancestors went through, and how they prevailed. While there are many websites to help you piece together your family history, personal accounts will humanize the history and be much more meaningful to your future generations.

You can start with your own story. Children, grandchildren, and subsequent generations will consider it a great treasure to learn your thoughts about where and how you grew up, the challenges you faced, and how you persevered through them. You can also write down your memories of your parents and grandparents if they didn’t write their personal histories.

We hope this has helped you realize that even if you don’t have a lot of money to leave your family, you can still leave behind an incredible legacy.

When you’re ready to make a plan, we can help. Call Santaella Legal Group, serving San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Pleasanton & the Tri-Valley area at (925) 831-4840.