The Da Vinci code for crafting a legacy

LauraAccording to the Snapple Fact I found under the cap of my peach iced tea yesterday, it took Leonardo da Vinci 12 years to paint the lips of Mona Lisa.

Of course, Snapple Facts occasionally require further research. For instance, if, as many historians believe, da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa between 1503 and 1506, how could he have taken 12 years to paint the lips?

I dug a little deeper and concluded that, while it didn’t take him 12 years to paint her lips, it did take him at least that long to finish tweaking them until he handed the painting over to his patron, Francois I, sometime after 1514.

It’s an admirable approach to crafting a legacy and one we can all apply to our own efforts. The Da Vinci Code for legacy planning – build, study,  tweak —  works.

The first step is to build your masterpiece and, for this, like Da Vinci, you’ll need to work with a mentor. Choose your estate planner carefully. He or she needs to be both well-versed in tax laws and effective planning techniques, and well-connected to equally skilled attorneys.

This phase requires the most effort. You have to analyze your assets and the manner in which you’d like to pass them on. You should communicate your goals to both your advisor and your family. Think hard about the legacy you’d like to leave, and then work to achieve it.

Once you’ve built your legacy plan, you should take a step back and study it. Does it address the opportunities and obstacles you foresee? Will it withstand economic and familial pressure? Most importantly, does it accurately reflect you?

Properly constructed, a legacy plan lasts forever. However, it may still be important to tweak it every now and then. Tax laws and family situations change. Charitable goals can shift as well. Check in with your advisor for periodic reviews. Remember, a will is a legal document and the most recent version you create is the only one courts will recognize in the distribution of your assets. Verbal promises you’ve made to potential heirs won’t be honored without written documentation. Keep your will updated!

Lastly, once you’ve perfected your masterpiece, be sure you let the people affected by it know where it is. Did you know the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre and for more than two years no one but its thief had any idea where it was?

You don’t want to nullify all of your hard work in legacy planning work by storing the documents somewhere no one can find them. Keep updated copies safe (we recommend storing them digitally as well) and let your heirs know where these documents are.

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding legacy planning, please feel free to contact the office. We’d be glad to walk you through our time-tested approach.