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A Gift to Remember

 Photo by Liz West / CC license

 Photo by Liz West / CC license

Another Valentine's Day (or Singles Awareness Day for some) is here, and for those who celebrate it with their special someone, selecting the right gift to give can make all the difference. Likewise when it comes to estate planning, there are numerous options for what you leave behind: the right gift can send a lasting and true message from the heart.

Flowers

The obvious choice for your Valentine is roses, but if you want flowers that last the longest, you might buy orchids -- or a mixed bouquet! Translating this into estate gifts, it would be like leaving a pile a cash to your heirs: it looks (and smells) lovely to hold it in your hands, and will surely make them smile, but it will be gone far too soon. Of course there are ways to slow down the spending of these assets, such as by an education trust, or setting other conditions on inheritance. This can make the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket last a long time and pay for more than the most epic trip to Vegas.

Jewelry

Whether its a promise ring or Zales, these gifts signify a special meaning that will always be cherished, even though the object might be mere carbon and metal in its elements. Similarly, sentimental gifts you leave can form a legacy of special memories. The son you took racing every weekend should get that car to keep driving it for years, while the daughter you dropped off at grad school should get to lovingly re-read every book in your extensive library of literature. These are gifts that would otherwise be converted to cash, but by selecting the right recipient and writing a simple will, they become priceless instead.

A handwritten letter

Finally, ask lifelong married couples what their favorite moments of marriage have been, and often you will hear things like "that one time he let me pick what was on TV," "that one day he cleaned the whole house while I was sick in bed," or "the handwritten love notes he wrote in his Valentine cards." And in estate planning, there is no one item that can top the care and attention you put into your plan, the heartfelt message you might want to say once you are gone, the legacy you will leave behind for your loved ones. A little time and effort spent now in planning what gifts you will leave to whom can remind your heirs how much you really love them when they need to hear it the most.