A Time for Giving and Thanks: Preparing a Legacy Gift This Holiday Season
With Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner, it’s time once again to start thinking about the perfect gifts for family members and loved ones. Bequests or legacy gifts – typically considered end-of-life gifts – are part of this gift giving tradition, but what’s more important than the gift itself is the ethical will or legacy letter that accompanies it.
As we enter the months for giving, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (“CFP Board”) Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP® provides insights on the important components of a legacy letter.
“Legacy gifts require careful thought and planning in order to make them meaningful,” says Blayney. “Such is the purpose of an ethical will or legacy letter. Think of it as a way to leave behind a statement of your values, beliefs and principles that will help recipients to use your gift wisely.”
In the latest CFP Board LetsMakeaPlan.org blog post, Blayney shares four elements you should consider including in an ethical will:
- A statement of values: Share the principles, ideals, and institutions that are important to you, and the impact they’ve had on the important decisions you’ve made during your life.
- A family history: With the online genealogy tools available today, it’s fairly easy to trace a family tree back through several generations. This may provide an important traditional context for the values you hope to pass on to your heirs. Or you may wish to describe how this wealth was originally created, and how it has grown or been managed through the years.
- Life lessons: As often as you may have verbally shared the wisdom you’ve acquired in life with your children or other loved ones, setting it down again in writing can earn it the enduring attention you believe it deserves.
- Professional advisors: It can be incredibly helpful to heirs to have a list of the advisors – Certified Financial PlannerTM professionals, attorneys, insurance brokers, accountants, real estate agents – who may have assisted you in managing the wealth that will be passed to others. If it’s unlikely or impractical for them to work with these same advisors, you can nevertheless advise them how to choose these professionals. For example, choosing a financial advisor who has earned the CFP® certification speaks to the competence, experience, and ethics of the advisor.
“While ethical wills or legacy letters are not legally binding documents, they generally carry emotional and spiritual weight with their intended recipients,” says Blayney. “These communications should be considered, planned and talked about with your family, and this holiday season offers the perfect time to focus on this form of meaningful giving.”