Deciding what kind of legacy to leave or helping an older family member to make a choice about what to be remembered by can be an emotional and stressful process. Yet it’s important to consider that your legacy or the legacy of the person you care for need not make a big statement. Rather it should reflect the person who’s leaving the legacy and what’s important to them.

Here is a list of ways to leave a legacy that are meaningful and can make a positive impact on those left behind.

  1. Give to a cause that is close to your heart: Perhaps your spouse or another family member passed away due to illness. You might feel strongly that there isn’t enough money put to helping doctors find a cure, or making it easier for people to cope with the disease. In this case you could leave some money to a non-profit organization that focuses on this disease, or to a university that researches this illness.
  1. Planting trees: There are a few environmental organizations that offer to plant or let family members plant trees in the name of a person who has passed away. If you or the person you are caring for love nature and feel strongly that more trees should be planted in the community, then this might be a good way to be remembered.
  1. Give jewellery: Many families inherit necklaces, bracelets and earrings from grandmothers, mothers and aunts, and if it isn’t very valuable but still holds meaning, then sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with it. Taking some old pieces that you’ve inherited and making them into a beautiful broach or necklace, is a great way to pass on a piece of you and your family, and to know that the younger generation will wear it because it has meaning for them, and also has a modern look to it.
  1. Family story or memoir: Writing about your family, researching your genealogy to make up a family tree or writing a memoir can be a wonderful way to make sure the family name continues. A similar idea is to have a family member record your story, almost like a radio show or podcast so that younger ones can listen to it on their iPods or computers.
  1. Give to charity: Think about the causes you’ve supported over your lifetime that reflect your values, and see if there are any charitable foundations that focus on this topic. If you have a considerable amount of money that you’d like to give then you could work with a local university to set up a charitable foundation or trust with ongoing distributions throughout the years.
  1. Endow a scholarship: Perhaps you have really good memories of your alma mater and want to give future students that can’t afford to, the chance to enrol in the program you were in. In that case you could set up an ongoing trust to allow a selection of high-achieving students to have their program funds paid for.
  1. Family trip: Set some money aside for your family to take a trip together to one of their favourite places, or maybe to the country where you were born but didn’t get a chance to visit with them.

Taking into consideration your values, what’s significant to you or the family member when building a legacy, will help those left behind to cope better as they remember the family member who is no longer with them.

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