Leave a legacy as well as an inheritance
Cash and investments are only part of the legacy you leave behind. Your family history, stories, values and personal items can also be shared across the generations.
Most people think about money and property when they hear the word “inheritance.” However, in addition to passing along wealth and assets, families can take certain steps to preserve and protect legacies that are often overlooked and lost. Forbes’ article, “When You Pass Away, Don't Just Leave Assets to Your Heirs. Leave Memories,” provides a thoughtful way to share the family’s history so that it does not get lost from one generation to the next.
Share. Record yourself sharing the stories your parents, grandparents, and other relatives told you. Be sure to share the stories along with the values and lessons you learned from them. This should include what you’ve learned about life, and things like money, success, and faith. Include your rationale for certain life decisions, what you learned from your mistakes, the reasons for your successes, along with your failures—and perhaps what you might do differently, if you could.
Preserve your family's history by creating photo albums with names, dates, and descriptions. Another option is to develop a website to share photos and stories and allow family members to add their own to the collection.
Valuable “Things.” Consider items you own that have emotional instead of financial value. These are things like your grandfather’s watch, a family heirloom, or perhaps framed photos that have been in your family for generations. These are items that have value because of what they are, not what they’re worth. Use an experienced estate planning attorney to help you draft a letter to designate the specific items. Be sure to describe what those things mean to you and why you chose the recipients to have them, so that they’ll be able to pass on your family’s legacy to their descendants in the future.
Family Values. Remember to pass on your values. You can do this by creating an Incentive Trust to encourage or discourage specific behaviors, by placing conditions and incentives on the trust payouts. This will let you, to some extent, encourage your kids to embrace your values and beliefs. An incentive Trust could reward children who earn a college degree, perform charity work or match the child’s earnings.
By taking these simple steps to formalize your family’s history, from writing down or recording stories, protecting important heirlooms, creating family trees, providing details about people in photos and elaborating on the things that mattered to your family, you create an emotional and historical legacy that may well live long after the financial or real estate assets have been dispersed.