How Estate Planning Can Be More Than A Transfer of Assets
How to Pass Your Stories and Values to the Future Generations
Money may be the most talked about of a person’s estate, but the value of their experience and wisdom can mean even more to family members. Reinforcement of family traditions can be ingrained in your estate plan, along with your wishes regarding money, property, and belongings. After all, the real foundation of a family is its values and traditions — not its finances.
It is recommended that you hold a family meeting to discuss the sorts of things that matter to you most. In addition to the value of sharing your wisdom, you can also increase the likelihood your heirs will handle their inheritance correctly if they understand the reasons behind your decisions. This is just one of the many reasons to have a family discussion about your legacy and your estate plan to address how estate planning can be more than a transfer of assets.
How your estate plan can tell your story
It can be enlightening to get to hear your elders’ stories of their fondest memories and wildest adventures, as well as the struggles they overcame to get where they are 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 family history. Here are a few ways:
- Audio files: With the broad range of platforms available today, you can easily record meaningful messages for your family. 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 richer.
- 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 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 stored in the attic. It is not only a personal delight to relive the memories of the past by reviewing your old letters and postcards, but it is also a great way for younger generations to get to know and sincerely appreciate your life journey and legacy.
Passing your 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 construct 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, medical or law 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 you enjoyed.
- 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 associate your family name with that philanthropic effort for generations to come.
Are you curious about exploring a few of these options in your estate and legacy plan? Visit our website or give us a call today so we can schedule an appointment to go over how estate planning can be more than a transfer of assets that truly benefits your heirs.