Leave a Legacy, Share a Legacy

Every day, we make hundreds of decisions. From mundane choices like what to wear, which flavoured creamer to put in our morning coffee, whether to take our kid’s phone away from them, and whether to have that second glass of red wine with dinner; to more consequential ones like getting married, having children, buying or renting a home, driving a gas or electric car, preparing our Last Will & Testament, owning various investment properties, taking that trip to Tokyo, etc. 

Any decision we make, big or small, is like dropping a pebble into a calm, early morning lake and watching the ripple spread wide. And sometimes, that ripple effect spreads farther than we might realize. 

May is Leave a Legacy Month. The gift of a legacy in a person’s Last Will & Testament is a perfect example of a decision that can greatly affect many people for years to come. It goes without saying that leaving a gift to a charity will impact the charity itself. The funds will be put to good use to support the organization and the people it is helping. That decision will bring you pride, knowing your gift will have a significant impact, and peace of mind that the charities you support will be taken care of after you pass away. 

I am an advocate for leaving a legacy in your Will. Whether your estate is high net worth or not, any amount left to a charity is a gift (literally and figuratively) that positively affects the world after your passing. However, in my line of work, I unfortunately see how leaving a legacy gift in your Will can take a sideways turn. The ripple in the water is no longer smooth and beautiful because a bigger disruption is causing a surge. That disruption is your family & loved ones. 

When my clients come to me with a previously drafter Will, the first question I ask them is, "Did you share the contents of your Will with your children/family/loved ones?". Eight times out of ten, the answer is, "No. Why would I do that?" That disruption is your family & loved ones. 

Grief and greed mixed together are a destructive cocktail of emotions.

Even in the happiest, most communicative of families, you cannot predict how your children and loved ones will respond to choices included in your Will that they were unaware of until after your death. 

All decisions in a Will are emotional. Appointing your executor, giving direct gifts, and picking your residual beneficiaries are ALL emotional choices. The same goes for a legacy gift given to a charity. This is an emotional choice. You have an emotional connection to a charity for a specific reason, and when you choose to leave them a legacy, there are many emotions supporting that decision. 

All gifts given in a Will have the potential for misinterpretation by your children & loved ones if you are not there to explain the rationale behind your choice. 

Most people leave a legacy gift to a charity to make the charity stronger and more fruitful. But if a child doesn’t understand why you left $100,000 to Charity X instead of leaving it to them, the gift is fraught with emotional baggage and, potentially, costly litigation.

When you die, you leave behind your legacy. A legacy can be wealth, history, a company, children, etc. When you leave a legacy gift to a charity, think of it as being a family gift. Yes, it is your money, but it is also money that, had you not given it to the charity, would have likely gone to your children or loved ones. Sharing your choice with your family before you die and having them involved in the process of selecting the charity and meeting with the charity personnel to arrange for the legacy gift, will allow your family to understand the importance of this gift to you, and feel like they are a part of this experience as well. 

Communicate your choices with your family. Make them a part of establishing your legacy.

Written by Mallory McGrath, Founder & CEO of Viive Planning -- Mallory is a wife, daughter, mother, sister, and friend. She advocates for pre-planning to help families to create open lines of communication and avoid tensions as they all continue their journeys through life.

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