All of us are interested in leaving a legacy, and somehow making our mark on the world. That’s true even for those of us who don’t have kids—whether by choice or due to circumstances beyond our control. (These days, fewer families in the U.S. choose to have children.) Certainly, you don’t have to have children to worry about how your assets will be handled after you die.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that you do leave a legacy, and that those assets are put toward something positive and meaningful for future generations.
When we talk about charitable gifting strategies, we’re really talking about estate planning—so one of the first things you do should be meeting with an estate planning attorney to discuss your options.
In particular, you’ll want to be mindful of asset liquidation. Work with your attorney to develop a comprehensive estate plan, one that includes trusts, wills, executors, and named beneficiaries. These estate planning documents will provide a basic framework for how your assets are handled after you pass on.
On a less technical level, part of leaving a legacy simply means ensuring that you and your family are not forgotten by subsequent generations. To that end, we’d recommend establishing a recorded personal/family history—a diary, autobiography, or online journal. Keep track of key items, mementos, and events that define your family, which can be shared with other relatives. Share bits and pieces of your personal life to others as a token of memory. Consider digitizing your memories. Above all, make sure your personal or family history is stored somewhere it will be easily accessible to those who come after you. (You might leave instructions within your estate plan.)
If you don’t have children to whom you can leave your assets, another option is to leave them to a good cause. Think about some of the charities or non-profits that matter to you. You might even leave something to your alma mater. (Most schools have alumni foundations who can guide you through this process.)
Just make sure that you leave these assets correctly, and are clear about why and how they are to be used. This ensures that they are liquidated properly. Your estate planning lawyer can talk you through some of the options for charitable trusts, etc. Also be sure to use online charity reputation checkers for any organization that you’re not totally familiar with.
A final note about charitable gifting strategies: Some may choose to share their assets with institutions they’ve worked with or supported in life once they pass on. Before establishing a trust with the institution, however, make sure you discuss this with a representative from the organization to ensure that your intentions are understood and your shared assets are used in the way you intended them to be. Again, you just want to be transparent about your wishes, and about the kind of legacy you want to leave behind. Your estate planning lawyer can provide some guidance here, as well.
The bottom line? Even childless individuals want to leave the world better than they found it—and there are many opportunities to do so. Charitable trusts and other estate planning strategies can be used to put your assets to good use.
If you have any questions about estate planning for singles or for childless couples, we encourage you to contact us. We provide business succession planning and estate planning services to individuals throughout California. Reach out to Singh Law Firm today and ask us about your options for leaving a legacy behind.