Leave a Legacy

What you need to know!

I’ve been looking recently at some statistics for Australia and, if you can stay awake while reading them, they can be quite interesting. For example, the average life span in Australia at the moment is 82 years – that’s 80 years for men and 84 for women. So you can expect your wife to out live you by 4 years unless you are better than average!

Now while that’s not particularly interesting if you are 30 or 40 years old, when you are near to your 70’s it begins to dawn on you that you are not immortal and that it’s later than you think. The truth is, if you are average, you may only have a few years to finish the race before it’s all over and you depart this world. So, what sort of legacy do I want to leave? What things do I want to come to mind when people talk about me when I’m gone?

Financial Matters

Your first reaction to that question was probably a financial one but, unless you’re Bill Gates, you probably haven’t got too much financial muscle to leave much of a legacy anyway. And since you have reached retirement age (that’s why you’re reading this), you haven’t got enough time to make much of a difference. There is of course one course of action that could change that. You could follow the example of that great Australian Ned Kelly and find that crime is a way to riches! That’s a bit too risky for most of us but I can tell you that following that path to riches is a bad idea. Don’t do it or you may end up somewhere you don’t want to go!

Though, talking about finances, does bring up the important question of “hows your will?” If you haven’t got a will, then find your nearest community legal centre and get one drawn up today or at least go to the local post office and buy a will kit. Most solicitors will suggest you follow the first path or get them to draw one up, because a do it yourself will has many DIY problems. If you don’t leave a will, the government will determine what goes where, and you won’t have a say. If you haven’t visited the question of a will for a long time, then get it out and ask yourself a couple of questions:-

1. Am I leaving these assets to the right people? Will the choice I’ve made just cause arguments?
2. What happens if those people die before you do? Who will get those assets then?

Update, Update, Update

You should revisit your will every few years because there are a lot of circumstances that can change the way you want your assets distributed when you die.  For example:-

  1. if you have more grandchildren than when you wrote the will, or
  2. you start a new relationship or
  3. end an old one, or
  4. you find an existing beneficiary is addicted to drugs or
  5. your executer gets dementia or even dies.

So get out your old will and see what it says and don’t put off making a new will. You can read more information about making a will written by someone who knows about these things right here.

Now I have three children who, after my wife, will receive an equal share of all I have left behind. That’s what my will has said for the last 30 years. However, it occurred to me recently, that if one of my children dies before I do, their children (my grandchildren) would get nothing. That doesn’t seem fair and I needed to fix that.  So, I revisited my will recently, determined to fix that situation and I now have a new will signed seal and delivered (to the filing cabinet).

The Super Problem

And while we are on the subject of wills, many Australians seem to think their superannuation can be left to someone in their will. It normally can’t be. If you want to do that, then get legal advice on making it a part of your will since it is not automatically part of it.

Normally you make arrangements with your superannuation fund to ensure it is distributed as you require, so give them a call today and ask about setting up a “Binding Nomination.” And you should also note that at a recent seniors meeting, I was told that my children would have to pay 15% tax on what they get from my superannuation fund when I die – that’s the Australian equivalent of a death duty. So, the speaker suggested that since most people don’t die in a hurry,  in my last month or so, I should instruct my super fund to put all the money into my bank account because my kids would be 15% better off! I’m not sure I’ll be able to instruct anybody in that time, but my kids would be thankful if I did.

What Else Will Your legacy Be?

Beside money or assets what will you leave behind? I think this is far more important than money because if you are like me, you want to pass on the lessons of life – especially the painful ones to the next generation and the one after that before they have to experience the same pain. I was at a funeral a while ago and I heard the woman who died, had spent the last 6 months of her life ringing family members and friends in an effort to set things right with them and apologise for her part in issues that caused them problems. That’s a great thing to do and I’m sure it closed many doors for people.

Now there is the possibility, if you choose to drift in life, you could leave the image of a cranky old man behind. It’s pretty easy to sit at home and get cranky with the world. And unless you deliberately try and avoid that situation, that probably where you will end up.  Unfortunately your crankiness rubs off onto everybody around you so it seems to me, I’d rather not leave that legacy. We all need to avoid that kind of outcome and choose another way!

The Guardian newspaper in Australia in 2012 had an article (here) by a palliative care nurse who worked for years with people who knew they were at the end of their life. She said they often expressed regrets and the most common were…

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others
    expected of me. This was the most common regret of all.
  2.  I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. This came from every male patient that I nursed.
  3.  I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.
  4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. They would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks.
  5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I find that list a bit confronting. Curiously no one said anything about not having money! But since I’m not there yet – I still have time to fix these things. So, it’s probably time we thought through how these regrets can be avoided in our life before our time runs out!

People Issues

Most people find that in their later years, if they can help others do something, it is a great legacy to leave behind. So they volunteer, they visit others a little worse off, they get involved in passing onto others, some of the skills they have developed along the way.  There are plenty of people in aged care homes who have few visitors (or none) and sitting with one of them is something you can do to make life a bit brighter for them.

You also have a lot of friends you have collected through the years. It seems we all ought to make more effort to connect with them and keep up with where they are in life. Of course, if there has been some bad blood between you Over the years, asking for forgiveness may be a great place to start.

The Bottom Line

I think, leaving a legacy of good morals and passing those onto the next generation is a vital part of what I want to leave behind. Of course, most people realise they have done some stupid things in life and by the time you get to retirement age, I’m sure you can probably think of many things on your list. So do take the time to pass on to your grandkids, the stories of God’s grace and how God only welcomes broken people into His family. Because that can be there experience too.  Jesus once said He came for those who need someone to help them get better and those who need no help wouldn’t find acceptance from Him. If you’d like to find out more have a look at this

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