How will you be remembered?

MSNBC reports the strange story of Wellington Burt, a lumber baron who at the time of his death was one of the richest men in America. Although he died in 1919, his $100 million estate is only now being distributed. His will specified that no one would receive any of his estate until 21 years after the death of his last remaining grandchild.

He is described in the story as “greedy,” “stingy,” and “tightfisted.” None of the 12 descendants who will split his fortune knew him at all. You can read the full story here:

Contrast Burt’s story with that of another multimillionaire who died 23 years before Wellington Burt.

What do you associate with the name “Nobel?” Do you associate it with a man who was the inventor of dynamite and an armaments manufacturer, or with the highly coveted prizes for outstanding achievements in literature, peace, physics, chemistry, and medicine?

A number of years before his death, Alfred Nobel was startled to see a newspaper article reporting his death and describing him as Nobel, the “merchant of death.” The newspaper had named the wrong person, of course. It was Nobel’s brother who had died.

Still, Nobel was troubled by the way the newspaper summed up his life’s work. He later rewrote his will to leave the vast majority of his estate to a fund establishing the prizes we know so well today.

You may not have the millions of Wellington Burt or Alfred Nobel, but your will can still serve as a powerful means of establishing your legacy. As you think about what will become of your estate, consider what really matters to you and how others will remember you.

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