Legacy is more than just finance and law.  It is the summation of all that is left behind by a deceased.  I attended the funeral of the former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Roberts this morning.  I first met the Retired Judge Roberts during an extended family celebration for a common relative while I was attending law school.  It was abundantly clear from the services this morning that he lived a full, honorable, and happy life of integrity.

One wonderful aspect of my practice in estate planning is that I get to interact with, and befriend, people of many generations.  As the sun sets on their time on this earth, I have the great privilege of learning from, and advising, the Greatest Generation, a name famed Journalist Tom Brokaw has called them.

Of the many Greatest Generation members I have served, I have observed that they are cautiously optimistic, frank to fault, well read, and thrifty.  Very few of them are, “shrinking lilies.”  Our country, and the world, is radically different in so many ways from the way it was when they were raised.   As more and more of them move on, they take with them volumes of experience, often unrecorded and underutilized.  All that we are left with is legacy, the picture of their life that is mostly defined by our subjective interpretation of what it was they accomplished.

With all of the tools and capabilities available, we can do much better to bridge the gap between what a life-lived actually was and what those of us left behind believe it to be.   Bridging that gap starts with your personal planning, but creating a legacy has more to do with constructive engagement in word, in print, and persistent focus.  Far too many us leave important details and questions unanswered; particularly for those we love most whom we give the honor and charge to carry on the torch.

The truth and reality is that those of us left behind need not only the keys to the operation, but also an instruction manual.