Too often when people think about preserving family legacy, they consider two things: preserving financial assets and preparing estate documents that provide for estate tax savings. While those are important elements, they are only true if we determine that family legacy consists only of financial wealth.
If we define wealth more broadly to include all forms of wealth—values, work ethic, integrity, joy, generosity, gratitude, and the stories that make up the fabric of the family—then it will take more than financial assets and estate documents.
To the contrary the two keys to preserving your family’s legacy won’t show up on very many lists. They are as follows:
- Building a family of trust. Trust is about reliability. It’s about predictability. Think about it. What are the things the destroy predictability? It’s things like affairs, addictions, lying, stealing, entitlement, unspoken expectations, communication failures, and the list might go on. The successful families have ongoing rituals. They have predictability in who they are and what they value. It can be said of them that you always know where they are going to stand. They are marked by a clear vision, mission and set of values.
- Building a family of transparency. Transparency is a hallmark of trust. In great families, there are no secrets, no hidden agendas, no past hurts that remain unresolved. We don’t tiptoe around what the estate is worth, how it may be distributed and what it takes to be a responsible adult. Simply stated, enduring families talk about everything.
I’ve seen it time and time again that too many families start with the technical while neglecting the underlying bedrock issues. Dig down and get there. If you need help, which many families do, consider reaching out to the growing body of legacy planners.
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Published November 17, 2015
Topics: Family Legacy