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Although English was never my strong suit in school, I have come to realize and appreciate the power and impact of the spoken and written word. Words really do matter, and from words—both spoken and written—we craft our perspective of life, society, issues, and yes, our core beliefs and values.

As taught in Aspire to Give® Academy's Donor Fundamentals Course, our aspiration to give is an uplifting, appreciating, and celebrating phrase. People can garner a sense of meaning, hope, and belief in the future through its connotation. To help clarify this concept and based on my 20 years of experience in guiding people in their life transitions, let me illustrate how one simple word can change a perspective and attitude. The simple word that I am going to focus on is "estate."

In my past work with clients, I've dealt with a lot of estate issues. Estate is more of a professional, legal term used most often in conversations amongst professional advisors and with advisors and their clients. With its repeated use over the decades, it has become more common in everyday speech. "Estate" as used in "estate planning," "estate attorney," "settle the estate". They have been common phrases with this word for as long as I can remember.

However, from my personal and professional experience, the singular word "estate" is interpreted in a heavy negative connotation with dread—and yes—even despair at times. It's no wonder clients had difficulties in discussing or working with an estate attorney! Estate planning requires a strong thinking head to overcome the dreaded emotional components. It is hard to wrap your mind around the concept of this end-of-life stage and its associated perspective of death. This word should be thought of in a new light!

As I moved from my professional financial career to Aspire to Give, a positive, life-giving approach took hold of my thinking. I made a paradigm shift in perspective by replacing the word “estate” with “legacy”.

Changing one word flips the script!

Legacy is much more positive. It is an appreciation of a life well-lived and the gifts given for the benefit of others or to improve this world in some way. Given for good and selflessly, legacy points to a better future for future generations. By adopting this word, we go from the dark emotions of negativity, dying, death, and despair to the life-enhancing feelings of positivity, life-meaning, and hope in what is to come. It's a matter of a life-changing, positive attitude!

I invite you to not only embrace this term legacy as a replacement for the word estate, but to serve as an advocate for its life-giving, meaningful connotations of hope in becoming all that we can through our living example and our own aspiration to give.

One last question: doesn't “I want to affirm my mother's legacy” sound much more inspiring and joyful then “I want to settle my mother's estate?”

Let’s Do Some Good!



©2020 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy and as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies. As the founder of Aspire to Give® Greg educates and equips individuals, families, business owners, and foundations with both traditional and leading-edge philanthropic tools and techniques for smart, meaningful, and impactful giving. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disclosure: Greg Doepke is the founder and principal of Aspire to Give®, a social enterprise that donates 100% of profits to charity.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are not representative of the views of ACG Advisory Services, Inc. or the Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc. of Midlothian, Virginia. Each client and prospective client agrees, as a condition of precedent to his/her/its access to Aspire to Give®’s website to release and hold harmless ACG Advisory Services, Inc. and Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc., their officers, directors, owners, employees, and agents from any and all adverse consequences resulting from any of his/her/its actions and/or omissions which are independent of his/her/its receipt of personalized advice from Aspire to Give® or Gregory W. Doepke.