One of the biggest myths about legacy planning is that children fight over money and possessions. However, the truth is that people don’t – in fact – fight over things. They fight over what those things mean. Research over the past 10 years has found that people are looking for gratification beyond material possessions and wealth. They’re looking for meaning, memories and shared experiences. Yes, we do fight over possessions – but when those possessions mean something – that’s when disputes can go from bad to worse.
That’s why it’s become more important than ever to consider the values-end of legacy planning. It’s not just important to parents anymore. Now, it’s just as important to their children. Communicating those values and learning more about each other as a family can go a long way towards an easier transition and ensures that what’s important to you lives on well past your years.
This blog post will focus in on that very issue and offers up some advice on how to create the best conditions for a smooth, values-driven transition.
If you’re a parent:
- Create an ethical will – Ethical Wills are a fantastic tool because they go well beyond the ‘who gets what’ level of traditional wills. Ethical Wills require you to define who you are as a person and what values you want to see perpetuated beyond your time on Earth. Long story, short – it’s the ‘why’ of life. Not only can this help your family get a better grasp on who you are as a person, but it also makes it easier for your loved ones to respect and accept your wishes – especially in matters where ambiguity exists.
- Regularly discuss what’s important to you– Tell your kids and friends how you want to be remembered beyond your money. Tell them in your own words by sharing examples and stories from your life that amplify those values. Show rather than tell. Communication is an essential component in many life planning processes, but in Legacy Planning – it takes on a special meaning. This is what you’re leaving behind. Make sure it’s heard.
- Agree to disagree on hard things – Your kids are not going to agree with every decision you make. Remember though, these are your wishes. Kids will be far more likely to follow through with something they don’t like if they understand the thinking and emotions behind it. When you make a decision, stand behind it, but also have the empathy to explain your reasoning so that your family has a higher level of understanding.
If you’re a child:
- Ask questions of your parents – You never know when something might happen to your parents. That’s why it’s important to talk about your parent’s wishes early and often. Make sure there’s not only a clearly defined plan of what is going where and to whom – but also be sure to ask the ‘why’ behind those decisions. Our parents can sometimes be far deeper (and more interesting) than we give them credit for. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to get to know them on an even deeper level than before, but it also makes it easier to follow through with their wishes when they’re gone.
- Communicate the things that are important to you – Family values are a two-way street. When parents are deciding what to match up with whom and why – it helps to know what’s important to you, too. The best way to ensure that a legacy is lasting is to make sure that what they’re leaving behind goes to someone who reflects those same values and is best equipped to carry them into the future. Don’t be afraid communicate your feelings.
- If you have questions, ask. – Don’t make assumptions about what your parent might have wanted. If you’re unsure, ask. Asking only makes them think about something more in-depth, and as a result, can lead to clearly defined wishes. The more clear and comprehensive they are, the easier the transition will be.
And of course – if you’re struggling to find answers, ask a professional. Not only can they help you prioritize, but they’ll be able to provide you with tools that aid in the process.