When you think of leaving a legacy of love, what comes to mind?
How about writing a will, choosing a guardian for your children, and generally leaving your affairs in order?
Those suggestions probably are not the ones that came to the forefront.
After all, no one likes to think of themselves as mortal, especially when they are young and vibrant.
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I imagine that may be the case with you as well.
Let’s face it: This is a discomforting thought and one we’d rather not dwell upon.
Here is the problem, though.
When you move on without having a plan in place, completely apart from dealing with the grief, life for your loved ones gets really, really, difficult.
This is true whether you are single, married, with or without children, or whether you are 21, 102, or somewhere in between.
When you do lay the groundwork, even though it may sound cold and clinical to do so, you are leaving a legacy of love.
In essence you are saying, “Here is a lifeboat. I know I can’t prevent the storm, but this vessel will help ease the way to calmer waters and sunnier days.”
Chanel Reynolds lost her husband and was left behind as a single mom:
The reality of my financial situation hit me like a ton of bricks: our income immediately went from ‘healthy’ to ‘zero’, we did not have an emergency fund, our life insurance policy hadn’t been updated in 5 years, we had no disability insurance. Without short term help from friends and family and the life insurance that came later, I would have quickly lost everything, including my sanity. I was frighteningly vulnerable, it’s embarrassing, but it’s true. And it is true for many of you.
She shares her hard-won lessons about getting your life together and planning ahead at her website, along with tips, resources, and hope. (Caution-strong language warning.)
Following are seven steps to leaving a legacy of love.
1. Get yourself and your marriage debt free. Dustin addresses the reasons for this here. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it can’t be said enough. Being debt free means there aren’t lots of bills to track and pay when your mind is elsewhere. It also means you aren’t at risk of losing your car or other property because, in your grief, you forgot to or couldn’t make the payments.
2. Create a Legacy Drawer. This is the mother lode of all of your critical information. Dave Ramsey describes the what and how here. I will caution you from experience that putting all the information together can be a bit daunting. It is much easier for you to do it now, though, rather than leaving your loved ones to ferret out this information.
3. Get your passwords into one place. How many passwords do you have for all those sites you belong to? Be sure they are accessible. This will be part of the Legacy Drawer, but deserves its own mention. I like a duel-pronged approach. Keep a paper copy on hand, using a word document or index cards. You can also save passwords digitally and be more secure online using a password manager program. LastPass and 1Password are a couple of reputable sites. Reviews and more choices are here.
4. List your social media sites and any related information. Have you thought about what happens to your digital life when you pass away? Mashable provides insight here. I had never thought of adding a social media clause to our will as they suggest, but will be doing so.
5. Purchase term life insurance for you and your spouse. There are other types of coverage, but my husband and I sit firmly in the term camp. We follow Ramsey’s recommendation of at least ten times your yearly income so that you can live off the interest without touching the principal. Remember that whether you work or stay at home, you will need to replace an income, all the work your spouse does, or both.
6. Make a will. Again, this is part of the Legacy Drawer, but absolutely worthy of a separate note. If you don’t have a will, the state will decide via the legal process who gets what. Wouldn’t you rather be in charge of those decisions? You can contact a lawyer, or a website like LegalZoom or TotalLegal to make your will. If you have made one already, be sure to update it as your life changes.
7. Choose a guardian for your children. I believe that of all the steps, this is the most difficult. After all, there is no one who will parent exactly like you. However, if you don’t choose, the courts will choose for you. To get a sense of considerations, check out The Baby Center. I would add a couple of key questions: Who will love my children as I do? In whose home will my child feel deeply loved and cared for? Sometimes it helps to get a fresh point of view on a tough decision like this. I recommend this helpful technique to provide perspective from the future.
Make a plan to tackle each of these areas, and commit to being done by a particular date.
Consider that getting this organized is a very good thing, as it will also make your life run a bit smoother.
Remember that you certainly want to live a story worth telling, but you’ll also want to pave the way so the next chapters can to be written with more comfort and joy.
Question: What steps have you taken so far for leaving a legacy of love and what would you add to this list?
Photo credit: Sudanshu Goyal
Not only does this bless our loved ones, it is a vital step for us to be in charge and proactive with our accounts and our future plans!
Absolutely right, Seana! Your situation and possibilities really hit home as you go through all these steps, and that’s always good. Thanks for adding to the conversation!
My husband and I have done many of these things except for the will, Kim. We finally got it together last summer (after 26 years of marriage!)! It was a labor of love that neither one of us wanted to invest in…not really or we would’ve done it sooner. We knew it was the loving thing to do, but let the urgent take precedence over the important. I love how you wave the banner for this kind of love and freedom, Kim! It’s a voice and word we all need to listen to!
Beth, I hear you about dragging your feet on the will. We didn’t choose a guardian for our daughters or do a will until the girls were around 10 years old. So grateful nothing bad happened in the interim! Thanks as always for your encouragement!
Kim – it’s funny because just last night, I was thinking about how I HAVE TO put a contingency plan together – especially now with the business – no one knows anything but me. And the advice and resources you offer here, invaluable as always.
Yes, yes, Ilene! Get that labor of love done and knock it off your checklist. Let me know how it goes!
This is just what I needed to really get on it…. I am forwarding this post to my husband. It should be our priority- NOW.
Thank you for your insight and wisdom Kim!
Glad this is so timely for you, Chris. It can be hard to face, especially the guardianship decision, but it is so crucial.
My grandparents passed away a few years ago within months of each other. They left my mom a notebook neatly detailing all of this information. In the midst of our grief, it was a real comfort to have this information all in one place.