Leaving one’s legacy, in my opinion, involves much more than writing a Will to say who gets your things when you die. It involves reaching into your past and telling your life story including recalling specific memories, telling of family history, expressions of love and regret, and granting or requesting forgiveness. It also involves looking into the future to express values, hopes and wishes for loved ones. It is not only comforting for our loved ones to receive a personal written legacy, it can also be satisfying for you to know that your loved ones will receive your personal written legacy if you die suddenly.

Sadly, not many individuals make a Will. Statistics reveal that about 30% of individuals make an estate plan. Significantly fewer people take the time to write a personal legacy. Understandably this is difficult to do as we must face death and pause from our fast-paced lives long enough to reflect and write. And the world now is calling to each of us to do just that. According to the 2012 Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America American Legacies Pulse Study, 86% of baby boomers said that family stories are the most important aspect of their legacy, rather than receiving assets.

My hope for our community is that we establish this personal writing as part of a ritual in preparation of death. Long ago, our ancestors wrote their own Will. They would tap into stone admonishments such as “don’t drink, don’t smoke, marry
a Doctor or don’t marry a Doctor.” Now things have become so complicated that people hire lawyers to write their Will for them, and in the course of writing the legal documents, the lawyer bleaches out all of the heartfelt personal statements.

I ask my clients after they sign their estate planning documents to tell me what color they are. Perplexingly, they respond: “black and white.” Yet, everyone’s life is everything but black and white, it is colorful, full of depth, and is dynamic.

I urge you to go beyond the legal estate plan and write your own personal legacy to put the color back into your estate plan, add your voice into your plan and provide you with peace of mind knowing that your heart will be felt. It also provides your loved ones with a lasting personal legacy providing comfort in years to come.

I created a booklet for my clients to use to write their personal legacy, called My Heartfelt Will. I encourage each of my clients to take time out of their busy lives to sit quietly and contemplatively to write their own personal legacy. I tell them that they are doing a great job as they just completed their estate plan and are among the 30% of people to do so, and this gives them the opportunity to take the next very important step and create their own personal legacy.

Stephen B. Yim, Attorney at Law
2054 S. Beretania Street, Honolulu, HI 96826