What Do You Want Your Legacy To Be?


I have been doing a lot of estate planning work with clients recently.

It is one of the parts of my relationship that I enjoy the most.  Legacy planning is really important and it isn’t just for the wealthiest of the population.  I have seen successful plans and disastrous plans.  As I tell all of my clients and prospects not doing anything when it comes to estate planning is certainly an option but I wouldn’t want the government deciding what my loved ones receive from my estate.

With that disclaimer out of the way I want to highlight two celebrity estate planning cases that have recently been in the news.  Neither case is particularly earth shattering as they both had current estate plans at the time of their death but they both highlight interesting aspects of estate planning when it comes to legacy.

The first case is Dean Smith, the larger than life coach of the UNC Chapel Hill men’s basketball team.  The first interesting thing is that everything has been very private.  Kudos go to his estate planning attorney and his other advisors that used trusts to keep all of his assets out of the public’s prying eyes.  The second and more interesting fact is the requests that Coach Smith had in his will.  Not surprising Coach Smith cared deeply for every one of his players.  He cared so deeply about each and every player that he had his executor send each player a check for $200 with a note saying to have dinner on Coach.  It was a fitting legacy for each player to have a final reminder that Coach cared and would be there to look out for them.

The second case is the estate of the late actor Robin Williams.  While he had a current estate plan and will that dealt with most of his big ticket items, like homes, investments, and business assets, his heirs are fighting over the personal mementos.  Robin William’s current wife and his third wife and children are fighting over clothes, photographs, bicycles, and even a comic book collection.  I am sure Robin Williams had hoped that his estate plan would have avoided this kind of legal fighting.

After a loved one passes away it should be a time to grieve not a time to fight over who gets your autographed basketball collection or the painting that hangs in the front hallway.  So what can be learned from both of these cases?

1. Decide what is important

Any non-titled property can become the source of a fight, especially if that item has sentimental or monetary value.  And while you can’t make plans for every single item you own you can identify the most important items and make plans for who inherits them.

2. Devise a Fair System

Money can create interesting dynamics amongst family members especially if someone feels like they are not treated fairly.  You don’t have to split everything equally to be fair, you just have to be thoughtful and consistent in your process for dividing things.

3. Let your wishes be Known

Once you have created your plan make sure you tell your loved ones about it.  Don’t just tell them what you plan on leaving them, explain the why.   They might not be happy with the decisions but at least they will have heard it from you and this will likely help avoid squabbles after you are gone.

You have control over the legacy you leave behind.  Estate planning is not only for the wealthy.  Make sure your estate plans are in order and in line with what you want to have happen.

Another Thought From The Factory on Main

Best wishes

Peter Huminski, AWMA

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified legal or financial advisor