What’s most important to pass on to the next generation? A recent survey by Age Wave Consulting asked Americans aged 45 years and older this question. The results may surprise you in that the number one ranked answer was not “financial assets or real estate.” The number one ranked answer was actually “values and life lessons” from 74% of the respondents. The lowest ranked answer was “financial assets or real estate,” while ranked in between were “instructions and wishes to be fulfilled” and “personal possessions of an emotional value.”
Traditionally, legacy planning has focused on the legal documents and financial techniques needed to transfer tangible assets. Now, people place just as much value on the relationships within their family. The key to this is thinking about your financial and non-financial legacy and sharing and discussing your decisions and rationale with family.
See Kara Duckworth “’Softer’ Side of Planning More Important to Clients Than Documents,” Think Advisor, May 24, 2019.
The folks in our office have recognized the importance of passing on values and life lessons and have incorporated this into our planning process with our clients. Keith, in his book, “Introduction to Estate Planning – How to Protect and Pass on Your Legacy,” Bardolf & Company, 2017, describes it as follows:
Our planning discussion may lead you to a fundamental question that you’ve never thought of: “What is the purpose for our family’s wealth?”
Most of us want to provide a hand or a higher standard of living for family members. That may mean freeing up some family members to choose careers based on factors other than economics. Often it means doing what we can to make a family business survive and thrive. And you may decide that you have enough to also provide resources for philanthropy.
All of this relates to your financial legacy. But isn’t part of your legacy non-financial? I would argue that it’s the most important part. You’ve tried hard to raise your family with values that will hold them in good stead. As they age, you rightfully expect them to pass these values on to the next generation. That means passing on family history, passing on life’s lessons, leaving behind something of what your life has meant. So, a goal of your estate planning can be to flesh this out, to identify and enhance the legacy you want to leave behind.