A true legacy is much more than leaving your money behind. Legacy covers all facets of an individual’s life, from family traditions, history, values, and wishes. To engage in a meaningful conversation with family members that will result in shared outcomes and be representative of each family member’s point of view, we suggest you discuss each of the four pillars of legacy.
Pillar 1 – Values and life lessons
Values and life lessons like ethics and morals; faith and religion; and family traditions and stories are some of the richest gifts we can pass on to future generations. How do you preserve such non-material, intangible concepts? The best way is to record them. Ask family members to write down the values and lessons they think are most important.
Faith and religion
- Are there religious traditions or convictions that you would like your family to continue?
- Are there religious stories or events from your history or past generations that resonate with you?
- Do you have religious items that you want passed on to future generations?
- Do you currently make contributions to a religious institution or organization?
Pillar 2 – Instructions and wished to be fulfilled
How do you convey instructions and final wishes to your family? It’s a difficult but necessary topic to discuss with your children. By creating a will, you thoroughly outline everything your family has discussed in your legacy conversations and minimize conflict among siblings down the road.
- How and where do you want to live as you grow older?
- Are you considering a move to be closer to family and friends?
- Is there a specific retirement or assisted living community you have considered?
- Do you have a financial plan to cover the costs associated with these living arrangements?
Pillar 3 – Personal possessions of emotional value
What is the best way to broach the subject of personal possessions with your family? Be candid with each other and ask each family member to list his or her favorite family heirlooms and why each item means so much.
Pictures, journals, and family history
- Are there items that document your life and/or family’s life that you would like to see passed on to future generations?
- Where do you keep your family photos – in albums or saved electronically, or other?
- Do you have any journals, diaries, scrapbooks, family history, or other important documents you would like to pass on?
- How would you designate the distribution of these items?
- Do you have household items that hold significant emotional value, but do not have much financial value?
- Do you have toys, books, or mementos that you’d like to pass on to your children or grand children?
- Are there items like art, crafts, or furniture that evoke fond memories for you and your family?
- Have you planned for the distribution of your household items?
Pillar 4 – Financial assets or real estate
How do you discuss financial assets and real estate with family members? While money is not the most important aspect of legacy for many people, it is still important to understand and discuss. Real estate, in particular, can trigger strong emotional responses the same way any other personal possession can. Start a candid discussion with your family about real estate to avoid conflicts in the future.
Items of financial value
- Are there items of financial value that you would like to see passed on to future generations?
- Do you have antiques, art, china, jewelry, or other items of value?
- Have you had these items appraised recently?
- Do you have a plan for the disbursement or sale of these items?
Residence and other real estate
- What real estate assets would you like to see passed on to future generations?
- Do you have a plan for your current residence?
- Do you have a vacation home or timeshare you would like to see passed on to your heirs?
- Do you own rental property or commercial property?