My work, including estate planning, thinking about digital assets, and community education has me thinking alot lately about different kinds of legacies.
In estate planning and in the dictionary, a person’s legacy is defined by the personal property and real property that a person leaves behind when they die. I think that is a very narrow definition of legacy, which is a concept that has been around for years.
First, I think we leave legacies in our wake every time we make big changes in our life, not only when we die. For example, we leave a legacy of sorts when we change jobs or career focus. We also leave a mini or micro legacy when we move our family and social life from one community to the next.
Second, I think that the importance of what we leave in our wake, when we make a change or when we die, is more vast than our property. This is a historical concept captured in the ancient tradition of the ethical will - which is a letter that shares personal values and instructions for those one leaves behind.
I see a resurgence of the ethical will right here in Silicon Valley in the tradition of the Farewell Email sent to a person’s teammates when they leave a position that they have been fully dedicated to for years. The writers don’t just send them to their teams, they often also post them for a wider audience. If you want to read a few, just go to Medium and search: “farewell”. They can be quite addicting, especially if you’ve been known to serial watch or read commencement speeches this time of year.
Do you see micro-legacies or modern ethical wills in other parts of your life? Are ethical wills more or less important to you than a will or trust that will convey your tangible property?
More Resources on Ethical Wills: