If you hear the word “inheritance” you probably think “money.” That’s a natural response since passing on hard-earned wealth and assets is definitely important.
And that’s why estate planning focuses mostly on transferring financial assets to your heirs.
But where your loved ones are concerned, the legacy you leave behind involves much more than cash.
Legacies involve a lot more than major assets. Your memories, your wisdom, your values, and your family’s history are even more valuable – and once lost can never be recovered.
Let’s mark sure that doesn’t happen to you and your family.
First, start writing down – or videotaping yourself sharing – all the stories your parents, grandparents, and other relatives told you. And share not just the stories but the values and lessons you learned.
Describe what you have learned about life, or money, or success, or relationships, or religion.
Tell the story of your life, but go deeper than who, what, and when.
Share why you made certain decisions, why you learned from mistakes, why you succeeded and why you failed, and what you would do differently if you could.
Recording your family history allows it to live on and enrich the lives of your descendants by allowing those who came before to live on in the memories of those who come after.
Another easy way to persevere your family’s history is to create photo albums and include names, dates, and descriptions. Or you could create a website to share photos and stories and allow family members to add their own.
Then think about the items you own that have emotional rather than financial value: a special ring, a grandfather’s watch, a table that has been in your family for generations… things that have value because of what they are, not what they are worth. Use an estate planning letter to designate whom you wish to specific items.
But don’t stop there: describe what those items mean to you and why you chose the recipients to have them – that way they will someday be able to pass on your family’s legacy to their descendants as well.
And don’t forget that you can also pass on your values.
One method is to use an estate planning tool like an Incentive Trust to encourage or discourage certain behaviors.
As the creator of the Trust you stipulate conditions and incentives and can, at least in part, encourage your children to embrace your values and beliefs.
Your incentive Trust could reward children who purchase a home, earn a college degree, perform charity work, enter a specific profession, or even just match the income the child earns.
We tend to think in terms of leaving a financial legacy, but you owe it to yourself — and your ancestors and your descendants — to leave an emotional legacy, too.
You might be surprised by how fun the process is… and by how much your emotional legacy will someday mean to the people you love.