One of the universal desires we all have is that our life should be lived with meaning and purpose. We want to live in such a way that makes a positive impact on the world around us and on the lives of those we love. And, with some careful planning, we hope to leave something behind when we die – something to be remembered by, something that enables our life’s work to live on long after we’re gone. In life, and in death, we want our imprint on the world to be a reflection of our values. That is the very definition of a Legacy. 

So, what will your legacy be? What story will your life tell? Have you given any thought to it, or will you simply leave your legacy to chance?  Unfortunately, most of us spend more time planning our next vacation than we do planning (and/or reviewing) our legacy.

What plans do you have in place? Do your plans include more than just a will? When did you last review your plans? Have you shared your plans with those around you who are important to you (your loved ones, the causes, and institutions you support)?  

That last step is perhaps the most important. Often even good, solid, legal and financial plans still fail to accomplish a person’s legacy goals.  Your legacy is more than just some numbers on a financial ledger or a name on the deed to a bit of land. Your legacy should be a story, and the story should tell what you are most proud of and what gave your life its deepest meaning. 

Years ago I read an article by a person who recounted his experience at the reading of the last will and testament of his recently deceased grandmother. What he expected was a typical, bland, lifeless narration that goes something like this: “I (insert the deceased person’s name), being of sound mind and body do hereby bequeath the following…” which is then followed by a laundry list of cash and other assets and who they go to. 

But what he heard instead was a beautiful, extremely personal, and touching narration by his grandmother about her faith. She wrote about how her faith had sustained her in good times and bad. She framed her whole life, her experiences, and her possessions, as purposeful and faithful. Clearly she wanted to pass along not just possessions, but the faith that had shaped her whole life.  And in so doing, she shaped how her heirs remembered her and how they received whatever possessions she left to them.  

Inherited wealth and possessions may quickly fade, but an inherited faith that gives life purpose and meaning is a gift that will last a lifetime… or more! 


 Tharan Leopold is the ELCA Foundation’s Regional Gift Planner serving Southeastern Minnesota. His services are available at no charge to those interested in leaving legacy gifts to local congregations, ministries of this synod and ELCA, and other charitable causes. He can be reached at