A Family History is Often the Most Valuable Part of Your Legacy

Jan 27, 2014  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Legacy Planning

In survey after survey, people report that the most important thing they can receive from their parents or grandparents as an inheritance is a legacy of family stories and personal histories. While many people think that inheritance and legacy planning focus solely on questions of property, those who stand to inherit often believe much differently. In a 2012 survey conducted by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, respondents overwhelmingly reported that they valued keeping their family history’s life more than anything else.

Boomers and Elders Agree on Legacy Issues

The survey asked baby boomers and Americans age 72 and older a range of questions about inheritances and family legacies. The vast majority of baby boomers who responded, 86%, said that the most important part of their personal legacy was to be able to leave behind family histories and stories that were kept alive by other family members. 74% of elderly Americans said the same.

These results were very similar to those found by a previous survey conducted by the same company. In 2005, Allianz Life surveyed baby boomers and elderly Americans about family heirlooms, personal mementos, and other inheritances. Only 9% of the baby boomers who responded said they were eager to receiving a monetary inheritance, while 14% of elderly Americans said that such inheritances were important parts of their legacy.

The vast majority of people, it seems, places much less importance on inheriting money than on preserving family stories.

Preserving Your Stories and Your Family Legacy

The question of how to preserve family history is an important one to ask yourself. Many families tell stories about their history to one another, but those stories can be easily lost as family members die. Preserving important mementos can be relatively easy by creating specific estate planning tools, but preserving memories and stories is much harder to do.

Having a tangible reminder of the family histories and personal details is essential if you want to keep the stories alive. You can, for example, begin preserving your legacy by reviewing old photo albums. You can write down details about each photo either on the back of each photo, or keep notes on a separate piece of paper or document. With the details in hand you can then begin assembling stories. You can either write the stories done yourself, or if you are more ambitious, hire someone to write them for you.

You can also assemble your photos into a tangible product, such as a scrapbook or personal family history. Digital and desktop publishing also gives you the option of creating digital versions that you can much more easily share with other family members.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Learning From General Norman Schwarzkopf

Jan 26, 2013  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Legacy Planning

As commander of coalition forces during operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, General Norman Schwarzkopf left behind a legacy as a great military commander when he died this December. He also left behind a legacy that can teach us a lot about estate planning, even if we did not serve in the Armed Forces or were not as noteworthy or famous as the late general.

Legacy Planning

Part of estate planning is not simply making choices about who we leave our money to and how we can best structure our estate to minimize tax exposure, but it’s focused on the broader picture of protecting our legacy and leaving behind a memory of which we would be proud.

When Mr. Schwarzkopf left the Army, he could have taken any number of paths that would have affected his legacy. He could have remained in the public eye, entered into politics, or taken positions that could have impacted his legacy positively or negatively. Instead, General Schwarzkopf chose a mostly private life that was lived outside of the public eye. By maintaining this position and not becoming involved in disputes or political fights, the general’s legacy remained largely intact when he retired soon after leaving the successful Gulf War.

Veterans Benefits

As one of the highest ranking military officers of his time, the general not only had notoriety, but also had access to all the veterans benefits that’s everyone who has served in the Armed Forces can access. Veterans have access to benefits such as aid and assistance, survivor benefits, commissary access, and a range of other programs that can help you now, and help your family after you die.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

One More Aspect of Digital Estate Planning: Your Digital Tombstone

Apr 30, 2012  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Legacy Planning

As you develop your estate plan, your thoughts will naturally turn towards your funeral arrangements and the legacy you leave behind. Today, while choosing your tombstone, monuments, or other permanent marker, your available choices have expanded considerably beyond the traditional options. For some people, the option of choosing a digital marker is rather appealing, especially given the rather limited space and options that come with tombstones or other grave markers.

If you already have a presence on the Internet, you may wonder what happens to that presence after you die. For example, it’s estimated that about 400,000 Facebook users die every year in the United States. Where does their Facebook information go? What happens to their pages, or their websites?

While you cannot always choose what happens on another company’s website, or something on a social media page, you can leave a digital grave marker. This Will allow you to the ability to control your legacy better by including photographs, video, audio files, digital images and other digital information of your choice.

However, you should use caution if you choose to use any digital tombstone service. Technology changes so rapidly that what may seem like a good idea today may not exist tomorrow. If you are worried about an online presence where people can remember you, you should consider using redundant services or making specific directions in your estate plan.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Is Legacy Planning Right for You?

Sep 27, 2010  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning, Legacy Planning

Legacy planning is an advanced form of estate planning that allows you to leave special funds and special bequests to your family and your community. So, is a legacy plan right for you? To decide, you must weigh the benefits against the financial cost.


You can tailor a legacy plan to provide special funds and inheritances for your family and community. For your family members, you can use Irrevocable Trusts tailored to their needs and your desires. Such Trusts make inheritances easier if your children are minors, if you are part of a blended family, or if you simply want to leave a special inheritance for each family member.

For your spouse you can create an AB Trust, which allows you to divide your estate in half for tax purposes as well as providing asset protection for life. For your children and future generations you can create a Dynasty Trust that will provide continued financial support as well as asset protection.

You can also leave a special sentimental inheritance for your loved ones. To leave them with a piece of your personal and family history, you may want to consider creating one or all of the following: personal letters to each loved one, a written memoir or a written family history.

You can also use a legacy plan to leave special funds to a charity via a Charitable Trust. Such a Trust allows you to provide continued assistance to a cause close to your heart even after you have passed away. A Charity Trust also lowers your estate taxes and provides income tax benefits.


Because a legacy plan allows you to create special inheritances tailored to each beneficiary, the creation and maintenance of this plan may be costly. The longer a Trust lasts, the more maintenance fees will eat away at funds. If the inheritance you wish to leave is not substantial enough to warrant the cost, you may prefer a different form of estate planning.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.