What do you want to pass on to future generations? According to Roy Williams and Vic Preisser, in their book "Preparing Heirs", 90% of wealth will not transfer to the third generation. If you are thinking, "That would never happen to my family," you may be at the most risk. You can put certain protective measures in place like trusts to make sure that your assets are passed down to future generations, but your wealth is more than money.
Legacy and Estate Planning
Most estate planning focuses on final arrangements, assigning executors, trusts and the dispensing of your estate with the primary concern being your financial, real estate and business assets. However, there’s something more to consider: your non-monetary assets. The things that you value most are the things money cannot buy. Your legacy includes the sum of your family values and goals, heritage and history, and personal stories and property. How do you pass on lessons about handling money properly and the blessings that generosity brings to future generations? (For more, see: 6 Estate Planning Must-Haves.)
Critical Conversations Concerning Your Legacy
Most people get a little uneasy when discussing matters that come up as a result of their death. Even if you’re ready to talk about it, your children may not be comfortable doing so, dismissing it as too premature or too uncomfortable to address. If you shift the conversation with family members to a celebration of family legacy, as opposed to death and inheritance, they may be more likely to engage.
Ensuring Wealth is Enduring
Every time a family member passes, their legacy is lost. While money can be gained, lost and regained, the values and memories of a person cannot be retrieved. In your legacy planning, consider engaging in the following activities:
Conversations Surrounding Family Values and Mission
Heirs cannot be expected to embrace and carry on your values, mission or charitable causes if they haven’t been included in the planning. This is not the kind of planning an attorney or CPA will likely do for you, so be intentional about family meetings. This is an excellent time to have open conversation about values, and discuss how different generations have different values and opinions.
The Williams Group interviewed 2,500 families about the process of transferring wealth to their heirs. The results of their study was conclusive: “Overwhelmingly, ... their values were the most important gift they could pass on to loved ones: money and ‘things’ are transitory, the values your family holds are paramount." (For more, see: Tips for Family Wealth Transfers.)
Your Legacy is Both Tangible and Intangible Wealth
Use this chart as a guide to thinking about your wealth in a holistic way.
Recording Family History and Stories
Intentionally use family gatherings to record family history and stories. Get out your phone or video camera to make a permanent record of them. Here’s some suggested conversation topics you could have:
When mom and dad or grandma and grandpa were kids.
- First jobs and what life lessons were learned.
- The funniest thing that ever happened.
- A recounting of faith journeys.
- Past family traditions and celebrations.
- A recollection of a visit to grandma and grandpa’s house.
Assigning Your Personal Property
We know that emotions can be highly charged after someone's passing. Family members may be more likely to quarrel than usual, easily offended or feel emboldened concerning final arrangements, real estate and personal property.
You can do your family a great favor by putting everything in writing in advance. Often it is the things that are not spelled out that cause the greatest conflict. You’d be surprised at how often arguments are the result of jewelry, art, furniture items, heirlooms and keepsakes.
Take time in advance to talk to family members about what items interest them and make sure this is somehow expressed so all are aware. The last thing you want is for your passing to cause a rift between your children. Your most important legacy is help your children continue to benefit from close bonds in their relationships long after you are gone.
Don’t Put Off Legacy Planning
It’s always the right time to invest in your legacy planning. This isn’t something you put off until your later years. Engaging your family in legacy activities is important but it can be really fun, too. (For more, see: Leaving Inheritance to Children Easier Said than Done.)
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