Passing On A Legacy vs. An Estate

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

When it comes to advising high net worth individuals, what are some of the biggest challenges? And where do we start? There are approximately 111,000 ultra-high net worth individuals today (those with $30M or more in net worth) according to a 2013 World Wealth Report by Capgemini.

To pass on an estate, which is financial, is one gift. Then, there is the passing on of a legacy which I define as something more meaningful. This second type of gift brings deep and positive memories. No matter the current economic scenario, it is carried in the heart.

To start with the financial piece, what if the central banks collapse in a year while precious metals hold their value? An ounce of gold will not tarnish. Silver will always have value. Historically, monetary systems have fallen apart at predictive schedules. Every economic downturn can destroy wealth. As the HNW like to preserve their wealth, what can you do?

If the Federal Reserve were to hypothetically disappear, any belief that you can pass forward anything other than hard assets could be deemed an illusion. What did Ted Turner buy when he sold CNN? What did Remington purchase with his wealth before he passed? What could the value of an orchard, farm, ranch or factory bring?

Real, hard assets...also known as real property can be an estate to grant forward. It holds its value in the long term and can keep pace with inflation if you own it. It is an asset to pass on as an financial “estate”. But, your legacy is the impact you have on the world.

What are the stories of your family and their history? Do you grieve over that loss? If you did, it was because of the impact they made on you. Your grief could be deemed altruistically selfish because you missed that connection that was positive in your life. That is what you grieve over. But you heal from it also … and then, all that remains afterwards is the good memories forever.

In sharing best practices, I believe the fundamentals of establishing and carrying on a legacy require an inquiry into the following: who will you impact? What will it bring? How long will it go on far? And what narrative are you creating around your legacy?

When linked to core values, your legacy will have a firmer foundation through time.

While a beautiful legacy can be in exemplified through exquisite architecture, it can also be great memories captured in photographs. If you care, you will not want your legacy to be a metaphorical tin building. You will want it to be positive feelings, with the impact of a Norman Rockwell picture. Personal photographs alone can deliver memories of what your life stood for, moment by moment.

These historical photos will be warmer and deeper than a marketing brand. It can lead to a great family name. Or a reminder of the message to ‘never embarrass the family name’ because that is the legacy you left. What values did the Kennedy patriarch instill in his lineage?

We can plan to connect with others by more than our social media profiles. We can impact our families and the world by living our larger purpose in the benefit of others through our ideas and execution. That’s your legacy compared to your estate. Leave a will, plan what you will leave and have it be be more than stocks and bonds, such as something that blossoms and produces fruit.

Contributing to a cause beyond yourself can set an example for generations to come, addressing real world problems with hands on experience. For some, a microscope may be on you all day long. But if you use your great power with great responsibility, the memories will stay with others like a tradition in their hearts.


Most leaders receive enormous support in growing their professional goals, while they have little to no support to grow their bigger vision or dreams. At Legacy Planning, we guide clients for 12 months to move them from concept to completion. When clients retain us, we increase their wealth by aligning their values & developing their focus so their legacy becomes a reality.

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