Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, August 25, 2017

What Is Your Legacy, And How Is It Different From Your Estate?

Shoeless_Joe_Jackson_by_Conlon _1913For the sake of personal planning, it is important to distinguish the difference between your legacy and your estate. From an estate planning/legal perspective, the term “legacy” has a very specific meaning: a bequest of money left to a named beneficiary through a will. Colloquially, “legacy” has a very different connotation. Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, in their book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life you Want, define a legacy as follows:

            “Our legacy comprises the spiritual, intellectual, relational, and social capital we pass on. It’s the sum total of the beliefs you embrace, the values you live                                       by, the love you express, and the service you render to others. It’s the you-shaped stamp you leave when you go.”

In a broad sense, your legacy is how people remember you when they reflect on your after your passing. Were you the crotchety old man that screamed obscenities at kids crossing through your yard? Or perhaps the stooped grandmother that always had warm words and Werther’s Originals for children. Whatever the case, a legacy is quite different from your estate. An estate is simply the aggregate of everything you own. This includes everything from land, to homes, to money left in a bank account at death. Large or complicated estates will usually require an estate plan and an estate-planning attorney.

Legacies need a plan as well, but the planning process is quite different. Legacy planning is a concentrated effort by the individual to transform or maintain their image as a whole person to an outside perspective. Hyatt and Harkavy describe the idea: “Truth is everyone is in the process of creating – and leaving – a legacy. The question is not ‘Will you leave a legacy?’ but ‘What kind of legacy will you leave?’”

See Daniel Scott, What Is Your Legacy, And How Is It Different From Your Estate?, Forbes, August 17, 2017.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


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