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  • Writer's pictureRob Schmansky

Adding Your True Legacy to Your Financial Plan

It’s November 2 as I write this blog. A normal day, albeit Election Day, but to fans of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., today is much more important.

Rigney (pen name Robert Jordan) was the author of The Wheel of Time, a series of epic fantasy novels. Although the non-fantasy reader may not have heard of him, he has been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, etc.) and other 20th-century masters of fiction. I’m certain that one day we will see Rigney’s work portrayed on film.

Over a period of 15 years, Rigney’s books were assured bestsellers. He completed a dozen books in the series, while in his creative world there were at least a dozen more, including parallel series as well.

I first discovered Robert Jordan while visiting the book section of the department store where my mother worked in the early 1990s. I was fascinated by the realism of his characters, and the world he created. Coming to an age I first was becoming interested in novels I remember feeling surprised how he could hold my attention and build my interest through such a long book. The final book in the series Rigney assured his fans would require new printing technology in order to bind it – he would not sacrifice his art for such limitations!

Today is the release date of the penultimate book in the series. It’s truly special because while many great works are simply left unfinished, Rigney— who was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis in 2006 and died the following year — not only planned for the time he was no longer with us, but also shared something greater with his fans, and especially with those close to him. Towers of Midnightwill be released today with Brandon Sanderson sharing the honors with Robert Jordan as co-author.

During his treatment, Rigney became a blogger. He wrote to his fans about his care and his decisions regarding the series. He let them in deeper, from his personal struggles, to his many victories. In the end, he lived his life true to his claim that he intended to write “until they nail shut my coffin.”

In the midst of coming to accept a terminal illness, Rigney rearranged the plot lines of his novels to come to a faster yet still highly satisfying conclusion. He left meticulous notes for someone in the future to finish his great work.

While the blogging showed how much a little extra can do to leave a legacy, one in particular always comes to mind.

Posting for Rigney, his cousin Wilson Grooms described an evening with the entire family where the great author was in rare form. He portrayed the bard-like characters he wrote about, animatedly acting through and telling the tales he had yet to write, with all of the intricate secrets and twists of plot. What an evening it must have been!

That extra effort Rigney put into that time with his loved ones today has me thinking of our own planning. As financial planners, we always recommend the basics, documenting all the details of what needs to happen in the event of our death or disability. In the financial world, this preparation takes the form of wills, trusts, living wills, health proxies, and the like.

But if we’re fortunate and brave enough to make the time, what we leave behind can be so much more than our financial estate.

As fellow blogger Jim Comer pointed out recently, one way we can do this with our own loved ones is to have “the conversation” with individuals or a family meeting. Many write legacy letters that describe not only instructions or notes on who they trusted who can help during times of incapacity, but also in the end what they learned to value in their lives and relationships. Some have turned to video messages. These are not legal documents but rather an opportunity to share the caring thoughts that are the true back story of all the legalese.

The Wheel of Time series will not end the way the author originally envisioned. But it is coming to a magnificent conclusion because Rigney took the time and had the courage to do careful advanced work, and to go the extra mile to share himself with family and fans. And of greatest importance to his family, I am sure, isn’t just that planning was done, but the times spent sharing together the feeling behind the plan.

The preceding blog was originally published by the Financial Planning Association®(FPA®). To view the original blog please visit the FPA Web site.

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