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How to Write Your Legacy Letter with Royal Standley and Aric Johnson

In this episode, Royal Standley shares client examples and his own personal example of how a meaningful legacy letter can add heartfelt value to an estate plan. After all, passing along words of appreciation, thoughts, and intentions to your loved ones will stay with them a lot longer than any amount of money ever will.

Episode 22 Transcript

Intro: Royal Standley of Oregon Pacific financial advisors offering securities through United plan or financial services member FINRA SIPC shares his planning approach to help people toward a place where they may be at peace regarding their financial goals. In this dynamic podcast, Royal will share his insights on how to design a retirement plan to help you plan for your future. 
Now onto the show.  

Aric: Hello, and welcome to life by design with Royal Standley of Oregon Pacific financial advisors. And I have one thing to say. Welcome back Royal!! Whoo.  

Royal: Hey, it's good to be back, Aric. It's been a couple of months. We took a small hiatus here on the podcast. Yeah. But it's been good. It's exciting to start the year 2020 back with some new content, some new podcasts, and some new guests. So we're very excited about that. And I'm still having some trouble using 2020 as a real year. It doesn’t seem real.  

Aric: Yeah. Yeah, it's, it was hard getting it back to a, I was talking to my daughters -  It's almost like saying 2100 or it's just a weird number. 2020 I don't know. It's just, I'm not, I'm not going to be able to get used to this for awhile. 

Royal: Yeah. Yeah. It'll probably be like 2025 before I'm really to,  
Aric: Exactly. Exactly.  

Royal: I need a good five year runway before I'm like, it's really locked down.  

Aric: Well, I notice the older I get, the longer, the longer it takes me to adopt new things. You darn new years. What's going on here. Anyway, that's my own issue. 

Royal: Right, right. You know the other great thing that we're celebrating this year in 2020 is, uh, we have the 25th anniversary of Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors. We're going to do some more shows, uh, about that, kind of talking a little bit about our history as a firm, what we've seen and, and, uh, kind of what that founding looked like back in 1995. 
But, we're really excited. We're going to be rolling out some fun things for our clients and the people that we work with. So it's going to be an exciting year, I think.  

Aric: Yeah, that is very exciting. The silver anniversary. That is a, that's a huge milestone, man. Congratulations.  

Royal: You know, thank you. Thank you. And you know, especially as a second-generation firm where we had the original founders that, you know, all retire or pass away over that 25 years. And then being able to kind of hand that off to kind of the next generation of, uh, financial planners is rather interesting because I'm, I'm looking at what our future holds, and it's hard not to kind of think that, okay, I'm going to probably be around this firm, you know, as an owner and as a financial planner for another 25 years. 
Aric: Mm-hmm 

Royal: And then what does that look like? Where I hand it off to the next generation of financial planners. So, you know, as I, I, I think this anniversary has brought up some things where I'm really starting to look at you know what, what the future of the firm looks like over the next, you know, 25, 50, 75 years. 

Aric: Yeah, absolutely. And knowing you as well as I do with working with you on this podcast, I know that you've already kind of had this in mind before this new year. You've had this in mind for quite a while because you're always thinking forward, what is going to be the next logical step? What's going to be the best thing to do to bring in and invigorate the business and continue that growth? Uh, which I think is phenomenal.  
So again, congratulations. I'm excited to be back podcasting with you, and I know we've got some topics to cover today even, I mean, you're going to start out, start the new year running.  

Royal: That's right. That's right. You know, I want to just touch on and kind of, uh, uh, whet everybody's appetite.  
We're going to be doing a podcast here, probably the next one or two podcasts about the new Secure Act. This is some of the biggest legislation around retirement and IRAs and kind of that whole gamut of planning for retirement. So we're going to come, come out, we're going to do a deep dive on that. Uh, because I, there, there's quite a few changes and I think, you know, what's, what's nice to say is I think there's a lot of positive changes in this new legislation. And, uh, as everything gets finalized, we started interpreting it, you know, I think this is going to change, change some, some, some of our advice to clients. 
And I think being, you know, on the forefront of this will help you do your planning a little bit better as well. 
You know, you're looking at required minimum distributions, planning your own retirement. So exciting times here.  

Aric: Yeah, absolutely. 

Royal: We don't often get new retirement legislation coming through. I think the last major one was probably ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act ] back in, I think 1976.  (Editor's note - it was 1974)

Aric: Wow.That's been a little while.  

Royal: Yeah.  

Aric: All right. Well, I'll look forward to those and those that are listening, if you have advisors that you work with, make sure you're talking to them about it. And if you don't have an advisor that you're working with currently, obviously at the end of the podcast, Royal will give out some connection information, how you connect with them, but be listening to the podcast, subscribe to it because Royal is going to continue to bring good information, timely information that will help you establish and, and create a good foundation in this new year. 

Royal: Absolutely. Absolutely. So let's, uh, let's jump into the kind of today’s topic.  

Aric: Okay - What is it?  

Royal: Well, I wanted to talk a little bit about legacy and state Planning. And we, we've spent some time talking about estate planning before. And, you know, when we talk about estate planning, you know, I think it's a very important piece of someone's financial plan. Um, it's really the documents that are going to line out what happens to your things when you pass away.  

Aric: Mm-hmm 

Royal: So it's still a very important piece of someone's financial plan. And we're going to do a quick review into it, and then I want to just jump into that legacy piece a little bit more. And talk about probably something I see overlooked by just about everybody who sits down, I think spends money on putting together an estate plan. I think there's an important part that's being missed there.  

Aric: Okay.  

Royal: You know, so when we say estate planning, really what we're talking about for most people here is a will or a trust. You know, wills are a document that basically says, hey, this is who I want my stuff to go to. You can line out some basic information as far as what items go where or what assets go where. All of that has to go through the probate system, which you know, can be costly. It's a very, it's a, it's a public process, so a lot of people like the kind of privacy that a trust might bring to that. 
There's also some tax savings as well, especially in a state like Oregon that has a very low threshold of $1 million exemption before you start paying estate tax.  

So in Oregon especially, we see a lot of people opting for trusts because you can start saving money with a trust pretty quickly as your, your net worth grows. The great thing with trusts as well is you can also plan for special needs children, relatives, you can also put in their pet planning. You know, if you want someone to make sure that someone's taking care of Fido for the rest of his or her natural life, that's something that you can use a trust to do, to set aside assets for the, uh, the care feeding and maintenance of your, your, your loved four-legged pals. 

Aric: Well, and here's a thing, is it, it's been joked about for a long time, and I've, we've seen stories, I'm sure, where somebody leaves $50 million to their cat, but that's not what this is. I mean, we're, we're talking about when somebody is, the possibility of passing away or we know something's a, an event may occur. I've seen people put horses and the trusts, uh, you know, things, provisions in there because again, it's your pet. You would hope that somebody would just swoop in there and take care of it and love it just like you did. But let's face it, sometimes it's very difficult to have that happen if, if there are financial considerations, may be your pet has meds that they take. And I mean, there's a lot of  things to think about in that.  
I think people kind of scoff at that, putting pets into trust or, or providing for them in a trust. But it truly is the humane and right thing to do for someone who you love, right?  

Royal: Right. And it's not right for everyone, but for those who have become in that real connection with their animals, it's a great way of just, kind of making sure that they're going to be taken care of after you're gone as well.  

Aric: Yeah. Yeah.  

Royal: The other pieces of estate plans that we always recommend for people are our advanced directives. An advanced directive is simply a document that says, if I'm incapacitated, how do I want my care to be provided from the medical community. Do I want to go on a feeding tube? Do I want every measure possible there to extend my life or you know, after a few days and once everyone's, for instance, said goodbye, is it time to just pull, pull the plug on that?  

So I think that's a great document to have in your estate planning folder. And then a power of attorney and for business owners a buy-sell arrangements are always very important because, you know, I was talking to a business owner just last week and you know, asking me, asking him about his plan, if he gets hit by that proverbial bus. And really, it was just kind of a shrug of the shoulders and, well, I hope people can pick up the pieces and I'm just like, you know, there's probably a better way to plan for this - 

Aric: Maybe just a little bit -  

Royal: Rather than, you know, just hoping.  

Aric: Yeah.  

Royal: You know, there's a lot we can do there with just a couple of documents to kind of put a little bit more of a plan in place than just relying on hope. 

Aric: Yeah. Yeah. Crossing your fingers in the open for the best isn't always a good idea.  

Royal: Yeah. Yeah. You know, and, and I think one of the biggest things that gets in the way of people getting into their estate planning, it's just the cost. You know, there's the cost of an attorney. You can also go out and try to do it yourself, although for most people, we really recommend sitting down with an attorney.  
Also, I think there's, you know, the psychic cost of this is no one wants to think about their own demise.  

Aric: True. 

Royal: It's not usually something we want to sit down and go, okay, well, you know, if I'm not here tomorrow, you know who gets my china collection.  

Aric: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm 

Royal: So we do recommend it. We know, we know it's kind of the eating your vegetables of the financial plan. Nobody wants to do it, but you should because that's good for you.  

Aric: That's a, that's a good way to put it. Yeah.  

Royal: But what I'm really focusing on, and you know, in the coming year here is really going a little bit deeper, uh, then just putting together the legal documents. Because really the will, the trust, all this good stuff is, Mmm, really just a really long, complicated way of saying who gets what. But in reality, we're not really looking just to make sure that our stuff gets passed on. You know, who gets a car, who gets the house all that stuff. I think really most people, when they sit down and start thinking about the family members that they're going to leave behind or the community they're going to leave behind, what I think is really more valuable to them is what values are you passing on to that next generation? What are the things that are important to you? What are the beliefs that you hold dear that you want to take and make sure they're not forgotten once you're gone? 
And that's really where I see a giant opportunity for people to sit down and take some time putting together what we call a legacy letter.  

Aric: Huh. Okay. What does that look like?  

Royal: So a legacy letter is really just a document where you as an individual, you know, assuming you've taken care of kind of all the other stuff, sit down and just take some time to reflect on your life. Take some time to write out what it is that's important to you about the time you've spent here in the world.  

Aric: Right.  

Royal: You know, I think a, I have a couple prompts that we'll just kind of talk through here. I think they're are valuable to people to just kind of take a few moments, sit down and go through as a way of just passing on what's, what really makes you you. 
So number one, I would say start by trying to define who you are. Start with that kind of maybe minor history of, you know, what, what brought you to this point? What, what were those big things in your life that were important to you? What were those big causes? What were those values that you hold dear? 

That's a great way of just kind of introducing yourself or reintroducing yourself to your family in the way I look at a legacy letter, after a while, I think the estate planning documents that we created, the will and the trust, once everything's just distributed, those documents really don't have any more value. 

But when you take the time to put kind of a reflection of yourself down on paper, now that's something that's going to be passed on, I think through the generations of, who was this person that's listed on my family tree? Who was this person that you know, supported the local hospital or the local nonprofit. Who's this person that's giving back some of what they acquired in this life to do more good in the world. 
The other wonderful thing you can do with the legacy letter is write down those lessons that you've learned over your life. You know, whether it's, you know, the, uh, ha, uh, uh, a good work ethic, whether it's always telling the truth. You know, whether it's not trusting a man with two first names, whatever that might be, that you want to pass on to the next generation. 
I absolutely think this is a document to put that in there.  

Aric: Got it. All right. Yeah. A little bit of fun.  

Royal: Yup. Yup. Finally, as we kind of wrap this up, write down what you're thankful for. Write down how you were blessed in your life. And what you're thankful for, you know, whether it's, you know, the family, the things you were able to do in your life, you know, there, there's so many things that we can kind of take a moment, step back and say, you know, what, what were those top three things that I am just so glad I got a chance to be around or experience in my lifetime? 

This is a great way to share that. 

And then as we wrap this up, I always come back to that, kind of Old Testament idea of the blessing. Um, you know, if we think about the story of Esau and Jacob, Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing from his father, Isaac. You know how important that final blessing was of just the word spoken over, you know, a family or community. I think this is a great way to wrap that up. What, what is the thing that you would like to see from your family? What, what, what is kind of that best outcome. And you know, is it passing on maybe some, some religious beliefs, maybe it's passing on just a blessing of health and happiness. I think this is really the place where you can record that and everyone's going to have a different way of, of, of writing that down and communicating that. 

But in my mind, this is where you should probably just take a moment. Let me take a day or two and really look at what it is you want that blessing to be that gets carried on generation by generation.  

Aric: Yeah. That is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.  

Royal: That's kind of our concept for this legacy letter. You know, that's something that, you know, once you, once you've put it together, you can just slip it in with your, with your trust documents, and you might do a different one for different members of your family. 
you know, you might have a, have a different blessing for you know your daughter versus your son. So don't be afraid of of, yeah, taking some runs with this. And it's also something that once you do it, you can always come back and redo it at a later date.  
Now, one thing I would say is be very careful with electronic media. These legacy letters really should be something that, while you can do it on a computer, definitely print it out and put it with your estate planning documents. What I see over and over again is with computer systems updating, you know, ah, apps updating, It's too easy to lose this stuff, and if your family doesn't know exactly where to look, it's almost impossible to find. 
So printing it out or handwriting it and putting it with your estate planning documents is really the place I would recommend doing it. As kind of an easy way to make sure it does get passed on, because if you, you spend all this time doing it, I think it would still be a valuable exercise, But ultimately I think these, these messages are meant to be read by that next generation. 

Aric: Absolutely.  

Royal: So I have a couple of examples and you might have some as well, Aric, of where you've seen those legacy letters in, in life. Probably the most famous one is, if you've ever read George Washington's will, George Washington did a very extensive will for his property, and what was really interesting, he's, he's, he left a number of swords he had collected over the years, uh, to some of his nephews. 
He really put thought into, hey, I'm not just giving you this sword, but he also said, you know, this is how you care for it. This is how you use it. It's not to be used in anger, it's not to be used, you know, to acquire power for yourself, but it's used as a symbol of your station and to protect yourself and your family. 

And I think that's, that's really, I think, a great way of utilizing this, this letter, especially if, you know, you're, you're, you're passing on your wealth. It's a great way of combining that to say. Hey, how do - I know once I'm gone, you can do whatever you want with this, but this is what I would like to see. 
I wouldn't get into specifics too far, but I would definitely say, you know, my hope for you with, with this inheritance or this item is that it brings you this, um, you know, whether it be happiness, prosperity. Use this to better yourself, to better your family, to take care of your family. These are all things you can think about and kind of add into that legacy letter. 

Aric: Yeah. I, I can't think of too many other things that would mean so much to someone, especially after, after you pass, right. That, that you're able to convey that and really show from the heart what your hopes, goals, dreams for them are. Even though you've, you've may have said it verbally, multiple times, this is something that's going to stick with them for the rest of their life.  

Royal: That's right. That's right. So I'll, I'll share a little bit about my own personal experience with this, and this wasn't necessarily as formalized as what we're talking about because in this case, this was fairly rash. 

My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was about 19 years old. She had hoped to make it about a year, but it turned out only to be in about five months that she had, and she went downhill very, very quickly. But I remember she passed away, I think December 2nd of, 1997. I had just turned 20 and I had gone back to school probably about two, two weeks later, and I get a package from my mother's best friend, and my mom's best friend had had basically written out, I think what my mom wanted to communicate, number one, she, she wanted to make sure that I had a Christmas present for that year and that I was reminded that she loved me so much. She didn't want me to go without that year. I was studying theater at, uh, Eastern Oregon University at the time and, uh, had really just discovered that was a passion of mine and my mom wanted to support me in that. And, uh, I just remember her sending me, uh, some money to buy tickets to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Which, which is an organization I now support, uh, uh, quite a bit here locally in Southern Oregon. And it just meant the world to me. It was validation for my mom that I was going down the right path and that maybe she didn’t shouldn't agree with everything I was doing, but you know, she, she could support me in that.

It just absolutely meant the world to me. And I share that really as an encouragement to people not to wait. Don't wait until you know you're on your death bed to start thinking about what you want to share with the ones you love.  

Aric: Yeah.  

Royal: Take time now while you have the ability, the energy to do that, because we all agree that tomorrow is not guaranteed. 

Aric: Yeah.  

Royal: And I think these messages and these values are too important, uh, to kind of leave on the shelf until, you know, the clocks running down.

So I just encourage people, take the time to start that, this process. You know, the, the other great thing is this, this is something you can do for free.  

Aric: Yeah.  

Royal: You know, it doesn't cost you anything. You don't have to go see an attorney, nothing like that. You can just sit down and start telling your story. Telling the people you love, why you loved them, what your hope is for them when you're gone. You know, I, I truly believe that these letters in the long run, well probably mean a lot more to your family than just the assets that you leave behind. 

Aric: Yeah.  

Royal: The, the assets are nice, but really, you know, in most cases, if you, if you look at the statistics of inheritances, those get, get used up so quickly. It's really the question of, are those values or those stories, those are the things that that kind of run on into eternity, not so much, you know, the, the IRA that you've passed on or, or that, uh, a set of china. 

Aric: Yeah.  

Royal: So. So that's kinda my thought today on, on the legacy letter. Now we've put together some, some prompts to help people, and you can just email us here at Oregon Pacific if you'd like some help with that. We have kind of a, a list of writing prompts that can just help you along in starting that process of what should be included in your personal legacy letter. 

Aric: Yeah. Royal, thank you so much for sharing that. I mean that. That was amazing. I mean, it was, it was beautiful. And I, I couldn't help but think you said a statement there she said she didn't always approve of everything, maybe that you, you know, every choice that you made, which I don't think any parent ever agrees with every choice their children make. But by buying you that specific gift, that was her giving you her blessing. Right? I mean, that's, that's kinda just saying, son here, here's the thing. This is your passion. This is what you love. And maybe she didn't agree with every piece of it, like you said. But I, I agree with it enough for you to follow your passion and follow the thing that you love and I want you to be happy in that. 
And that was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that.  

Royal: Oh my, my pleasure. My pleasure. You know, it's, it's, it's part of my story and part of my legacy.  

Aric: Yeah. Absolutely. All right, Royal. Thank you so much. And,again, can you remind people where they can find, uh, the, those, those helpers, the, the writing prompts and things that will help them craft these letters? 
Royal: Absolutely. You can go to That's Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors. We've got a lot of new things coming out this year. A lot of Educational events, a lot of celebrations around our 25th anniversary. Ah, so you can visit the website, you can email us if you, you're looking for something specific and uh, yeah, just happy to kind of share that story today. 

Aric: Yeah, 2020 is going to be a great year for you Royal. I'm so excited to be a part of it. Thank you for letting me join you on this journey.  

Royal: Hey, my pleasure. My pleasure.  

Aric: And thank you all for listening to the life by design podcast with Royal Standley. If you have not subscribed to the podcast yet, please click the subscribe now button below. 
This way, when Royal comes out with a new podcast, it'll show up directly on your listening device. This makes it much easier to share these podcasts with your friends and family and for accountability sake, there's nothing better than sharing this with someone you love and maybe the challenging them and yourself to, to write these letters. 

You guys can check in on each other. How's it going? What, you know, what are your hurdles? What are, what's stopping you? Or what, what did you find easy? And, uh, it would a great conversation to be able to have with an another family member. Again. Thanks for listening today for everyone at Oregon Pacific financial advisors. 

This is Aric Johnson reminding you to live your best day every day. And we'll see you next time. 

Outro: Discussions in this show are for educational purposes only. Information presented should not be considered specific investment advice or a recommendation to take any particular course of action. Always consult with a financial professional regarding your personal situation before making financial decisions. The views and opinions expressed are based on current economic and market conditions and are subject to change. All investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. Securities offered through United Planners Financial Services (UP), Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services offered through Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors, Inc. (OPFA). OPFA & UP are independent companies. Neither OPFA nor UP offers tax or legal advice.

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Please note that discussions in these shows are for educational purposes only. Information presented should not be considered specific investment advice or a recommendation to take any particular course of action. Always consult with a financial professional regarding your personal situation before making financial decisions. The views and opinions expressed are based on current economic and market conditions and are subject to change. All investing involves risk, including the potential for loss of principal. Securities offered through United Planners Financial Services (UP), Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services offered through Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors, Inc. (OPFA). OPFA & UP are independent companies. Neither OPFA nor UP offer tax or legal advice.