Memorial Day is Monday. A day we celebrate and remember our ancestors, especially those who were lost in battle. I thought about that this week when one of our clients sent me an article that I thought was worth passing along. The article by Laura Roser is titled You are Worth More Than Your Stuff. The article points out that while we think mainly of our physical wealth in estate planning, we have so much more to pass along. Are financial assets all we want to pass along to our loved ones? Most of us would say no. We want to pass along our values, our life lessons learned, and our faith.
We commonly refer to the document containing our final wishes as our Will, but more traditionally it is referred to as our Last Will and Testament. According to the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, a Testament is “a solemn, authentic instrument in writing, by which a person declares his will as to disposal of his estate and effects after his death.” Alternatively, it is defined as “one of the two distinct revelations of God’s purposes toward man; a covenant; also, one of the two general divisions of the canonical books of the sacred Scriptures, in which the covenants are respectively revealed; as, the Old Testament; the New Testament; — often limited, in colloquial language, to the latter.”
I don’t think it is happenstance that these are the two usages of this word. Of course scripture is meant to pass on wisdom, guidance, and direction from God. As you look at the Last Will and Testament of historic figures, you can see that more attention was paid to passing along more than just a laundry list of assets. It passed along bits of wisdom and purpose as well. A fun example is George Washington’s Will that can be found here.
When you speak to your advisors about estate planning, make sure you discuss ideas about how to convey your whole legacy, and that legacy is about a lot more than just the stuff you have acquired.