Most of us think of a legacy in terms of the future, of when we’re gone. We worry about what sort of financial inheritance we’ll be able to leave; what traditions and values have we left behind for the next generation.

But, in reality, a substantial part of your legacy is how you live right now.

Do you “walk the talk” or do you put things off? There could be a surprising cost to your heirs and beneficiaries, both intrinsic and emotional, if you haven’t incorporated certain protections and safeguards during your lifetime.

Here are a few areas for you to think about.

Are you organized? If you needed to, could you put your hands on any one of your insurance policies, birth certificates for you and your family, or account numbers and locations of all your checking, savings or investment accounts?

It is estimated that more than $41 billion is owed in unclaimed money from checking and savings accounts, stocks, dividends, life insurance policies, tax refunds, pensions and more. These benefits remain unclaimed because the heirs didn’t know about the accounts, policies or investments when a loved one died. There are services available to help heirs find missing money, but the process can be long and tedious, and could fail. That’s probably not the legacy you intended when you initially opened the accounts, made the investments or purchased the policies. Make sure you have important information and documents in a safe place and that one of your heirs or a trusted advisor has access to them.

What about your health? You want your family to be healthy but do you take care of yourself? Good health means eating right, exercising and getting regular check ups or care when needed. Sometimes getting care when needed can be a demanding process. Urgent care centers can be crowded, with long wait times. Many doctors are booked well in advance with few opportunities to fit you in on a moment’s notice. But there is another option and it is becoming more and more popular.

It’s a virtual MD monthly service where you can connect with a doctor via video or phone when and if you need one. You can get immediate attention or answers to your health questions. If your situation is more serious, then you can escalate it to urgent care, a hospital emergency room or your local primary care physician. Something this simple can demonstrate to the people around you that you are serious about good health – a value you want as part of your legacy.

Another consideration would be your online accounts in addition to any banking or credit card sites you access. You may have a Facebook account, email, Twitter, or any other social or sharing accounts. If something happens to you, your family might not be able to access your accounts without your user name and password. That means your photos, messages, documents, and contacts could be lost. Making a list of your accounts, user names and passwords, putting it in a safe place, and letting the person you trust know or have access to this information could save a lot of heartache and frustration later on.

Finally, part of your living legacy should also reflect how you manage your money, your credit, and your personal security.

Sound management practices say a lot about your values. Saving for your retirement or helping a child or grandchild through college can be a very satisfying and valuable financial endeavor. Maintaining a good credit score can be an excellent demonstration of financial responsibility. And protecting your good name and your good credit from the abuse of identity theft just makes sense for anyone who practices smart money management.

These are some of the areas where your actions now demonstrate the life lessons and values you wish to instill in the generations who come after you. They are your living legacy and you don’t have to do it on your own. There are services that can help you manage many areas in your life.

LegacyShield is one of those services. It was designed and created to help you prepare the legacy you want to leave, whether it’s through preparing for when you’re not here by making out a will or an advanced care directive, or by taking advantage of protection services for while you are alive.

But, whether or not you use our service or do it on your own, please take the time to keep your living legacy safe and secure.

Michael Babikian

Written by Michael Babikian

Michael Babikian is an established innovator whose focus is implementing ways for disruptive innovations to help further his goal of protecting families. He helps bring insight to people that will empower them to not just accept the responsibility for their financial futures and securing their legacies, but also to be enthusiastic about the process.