Leaving a Legacy

January 18, 2011 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust Tags: 0 Comments

The term "legacy" has expanded beyond its traditional meaning.  Historically, a legacy fit squarely within its definition as found in Black’s Law Dictionary:  "a disposition of personalty by will.  A bequest." 

Of interest to the estates bar is a limitation period respecting claims to recover an unpaid legacy.  If a beneficiary is advised of the terms of a Will which names him or her as a legatee of a particular sum, a ten year limitation period from the date of death applies to any claim for an unpaid legacy. Interestingly, this limitation period is a very old provision that first appeared in English statute and has survived in Ontario as s. 23 of the Real Property Limitations Act, R.S.O.1990, c. L.15.

But beyond its bare legal meaning, there has, in recent times, been considerable commentary  and reflection on the cosmic (for lack of a better term) meaning of "legacy" and what it is that testators seek to accomplish when creating an estate plan.  The discussion of the meaning of a legacy reflects how we view the meaning of our lives and how we can maximize the impact of the footprint (i.e. legacy) that we leave behind. This may explain the prevalence of the term in websites such as Legacy.com (an obituary site) and Legacyfamilytree.com (genealogy software)

Such an approach to will-making will presumably translate into good news for charitable causes. The motivation need not be about leaving a legacy so much as feeling good about one’s estate plan. According to an online article at CNN.com , a 2008 study in Science found that people were happier spending $20 on others than they were on themselves. In general, research supports the idea that people feel good when they feel they are making an impact with their money in a personal way.

David M. Smith – Click here for more information on David Smith.

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