Money Isn’t Everything in Estate Planning
How to Pass Your
Stories and Values to the Future Generations
Money may be the most talked about wealth contained within a person’s
estate, but the riches of their experience and wisdom can mean even more to
family members down the line. Reinforcement of family traditions can be built
into your estate plan alongside your wishes regarding your money, property, and
belongings. After all, what really makes a family a family is its values and
traditions — not the way its finances read on paper.
It's an excellent idea to hold a
family meeting in which you discuss the sorts of things that matter to you most.
In addition to the value of sharing your wisdom, you can also make it more
likely that your heirs will handle their inheritance correctly if they
understand the reasons behind your choices. This
is just one of the many reasons to have a family discussion about your
legacy and your estate plan.
How to tell your
story through your estate plan
It’s a delight to get to hear your elders’ stories of their fondest
memories and wildest adventures, as well as the struggles they overcame to get
the family where it is today. This wisdom provides meaning for a financial legacy that otherwise might just be viewed as a windfall. As part of your estate and legacy planning, you
can decide to record your own personal history. Here are a few ways:
- Audio files: With the broad range of audio formats available today, you can record in the
way that’s easiest for you - anything from a handheld cassette recorder to the
Voice Memos app on your iPhone. There are some
easy-to-use digitizing services that can compile your
stories into audio files to make available to your family and descendants.
- Video files: The same goes for home movies and other
video recordings. Older film formats can be easily digitized and organized along
with the videos from your phone. Today’s technology also makes it easier than
ever to add narration (and context) to a video, making the story all the
- Photo albums: Many families have prized photo
collections that catalog generations. It’s a tragedy when
something like this is lost in a fire or extreme weather event, or even
misplaced in a move. Creating a digital database is a favor to your family in
more ways than one: Not only will they have access to these memories at any
time, they can also feel secure knowing that these family treasures won’t be
lost anytime soon and that multiple copies can be made for the different
branches of the family.
- Letters and other writings: If you enjoy
writing, you can also include handwritten or typed letters or stories to your
family members in your legacy plan to be received and read at the time of your
choosing. You can also include past letters and postcards that might be tucked
away in the attic. It’s not only a personal delight to relive the memories of
the past by reviewing your old letters and postcards, but it's also a great way for younger generations to get to know
and sincerely appreciate your life
journey and legacy.
values to the next generation
Some estate planning strategies blend your finances and personal
values. For example, we might have a discussion on some of your core values in
life. Whether you feel most passionate about the need for your beneficiaries to
travel and gain worldly experience, continue a unique
family tradition like sailing or astronomy, or support meaningful charitable or
spiritual work, we can draft trusts that contain funds specifically set aside
for these endeavors.
- Educational trusts: If you value
education, you might want to set up a trust to fund undergraduate and graduate
degrees, med school, study abroad, or even community classes for your family’s
future generations. Because of sharp increases in
educational costs within the U.S., your grandchildren will likely stand to
benefit immensely from an educational trust.
- Incentive trusts: Similar to the
way educational trusts set aside wealth
for the purpose of funding a beneficiary’s schooling, incentive trusts can also
help steer the course of your descendants’ lives be encouraging some paths
while discouraging others. For example,
an incentive trust could contain instructions for disbursements to be released
when the beneficiary is working a part or full-time job. Or if family vacations
were an important part of your upbringing, you could set aside funds
specifically for your grandchildren to experience the same wonderful tradition
- Charitable trusts or foundations: Charitable trusts
or foundations establish a family legacy of supporting a particular cause, but
they also have the added financial benefit of reducing income and estate taxes.
They are an excellent way to help a charitable organization that’s central to your core values and make your name
associated with that philanthropic effort for generations to come.
Are you curious about exploring a few of these options in your estate
and legacy plan? Give us a call today, and we
can schedule an appointment to go over your many options for showcasing
your memories and values in a long-lasting way that truly benefits your heirs.