Updating my will has been on my mind for quite some time now. Life circumstances change, kids grow-up, financial situations changes. I procrastinated for a very long time about this will. Now that it is, I feel very satisfied and pleased. There is peace in that corner of my mind that nagged and nagged about it for so long. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that people, myself included, avoid making out wills because they don't want to confront their own mortality or have to face up to making difficult decisions.
One of the things I learned from the process of making a will is that a will is an expression of love for the living. After all, the loss of you will be difficult enough for your loved ones to bear. Why add to their angst with legal problems, emotional confrontations with family members and possible financial losses.
The living, that is, those left behind, will make of a will what they will. Make no mistake, the will, is taken seriously by those left behind. Understand there will be no opportunity to explain what you really intended by leaving some treasured object to cousin Jo or why you named Sally your executor instead of your older son Bob. The child who is convinced that you love the others more than him will be looking for something in the will that proves him right and may very well find it in spite of how careful you are not to have anything in the will that might be misconstrued in that direction. So, it is a good idea to use the simplest language and clearest grammatical structure as possible.
The Last Will and Testament is exactly that. You don't get a second chance. After I dealt with distribution of the tangibles - financial assets, money and physical objects accumulated and treasured for so much of a lifetime you confront the most important part of your legacy. .
Making a will is a poignant reminder that the physical stuff, including the money, doesn't really amount to very much when all is said and done. Perhaps the appropriate background music for will making is the song "Is That All There Is?" My answer to that musical conundrum is a resounding, "No." That isn't all there is. The tangible things we leave behind have little to do with the real legacy we leave. The real legacy is the one we fashion each day of our lives by the way we live and who we are being.
How do you want to be remembered? Are you living your life in a way that is consistent with the legacy you really want to leave. Do you even know the nature of the legacy you want to leave or are you like Alfred Nobel who was fortunate enough to read his obituary printed prematurely in the daily newspaper? Much to his chagrin the obituary described the fame and fortune he accumulated from his invention of dynamite. Nobel decided then and there that dynamite and its awful potential for destruction was not the achievement for which he wanted to be remembered. And, so he established the prestigious Nobel Prizes. Today, when the name Nobel comes up the first association is with the prizes. Relatively few know he is the inventor of dynamite.
Few of us have the wherewithal to create a legacy of the magnitude of the Nobel Prizes. But all of us can recreate the opportunity Alfred Nobel had in looking at his legacy and then taking steps to change it if it displeases us.
Most of us never stop to think of the legacy we would like to leave. How do you find out what legacy you would like to leave? Here are two exercises that will help you clarify your thoughts on the subject. The first is to write your own eulogy. Warning! This can be an emotional exercise, so keep the box of tissues close at hand. Make sure you are alone and in an environment where you will not be disturbed. Before you start, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and visualize your funeral. Be objective. If you were to die tomorrow, what would be said about you? Look it over. If the eulogy you write does not please you, write down what you do want to be said about you. Look this eulogy over and decide what actions you would need to take now in order to create the legacy you really want to leave. Notice that the legacy you want to leave has little to do with your business or job. It is about the kind of person you were, who you were being when you were at work, with your family, or handling a difficult situation.
The second exercise is to imagine that you had everything you needed. Write down the words to complete the sentence "If I had__________ I would________________." What changes would you have to make in your life to live a life consistent with your dreams? This is your real legacy. What is your stand? How do you live your life?
Here are some immediate actions you may want to consider taking, with regard to your legacy.
1) If you don't have a will, call a lawyer and make an appointment today.
2) If you have a will, review it. Is it up-to-date in terms of your circumstances today? Does the language in the will say anything that could be construed as hurtful or damaging by anyone? Are you giving from a generous heart or are you attempting to control the living from the grave?
3) Ask your accountant if its time to do estate planning.
5) Now, today start creating your true legacy.
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Ruth Zanes has been a Business, Career and Personal Success Coach since 1985. Her broad range of experience prior to coaching includes consultant, business ownership and corporate executive for some of the world's largest corporations. Contact Ruth and see her blog and coaching resources at: