When most people think about an estate plan, they think about their property, assets, and money. However, that is not everything that someone can pass down to their children. You can also pass on values, experience, and wisdom. These things will possibly mean more to your family that your wealth. You can take the opportunity to reinforce family traditions, history, and priorities. After all, that is what makes up a family anyway, not money.
As part of your estate plan, you may want to hold a family meeting. You can use this meeting to not only explain how you will pass on your wealth, but also talk about your reasons, goals, vision, and your values. You are then helping to make sure that your children will use their inheritances the way you wish. This way, you are passing on a legacy, not just money.
How to tell your story through your estate plan
There is something special about reading about an ancestor or hearing their voice. It often helps strengthen someone’s sense of self and worth. You can also step into that role for your descendants as they go through life and many of the same struggles that you went through. Here are some thoughts about how you can become that positive influence in their lives:
Audio or Video files:
With today’s technology, you can record audio or video files with a smartphone. If you do not have one, a child or grandchild will surely have one and be willing to let you use it. You can then make those files available to the family; digitizing services are also available if needed.
Many families have photos of ancestors. You can contribute to these albums. You should also make an effort to digitize these albums so they are never completely lost through fire or some other tragedy. This can create a sense of security and continuity for your family down the generations and offers unlimited access to their family heritage.
Letters and other writings:
You can write letters to individual family members. These can become treasured possessions just for them, to be read at any point in the future. You can also write multiple letters to someone to be opened at a certain age or specific life event like marriage. This way, you are preserving your memory and positive influence in your loved ones’ lives.
Passing your values to the next generation
Some estate planning strategies combine a legal structure with the goal of passing on your values. You can use a trust to express your values and priorities and provide funding to motivate your loved ones to carry on what matters to you. Let’s look at some examples:
If you want your family to become well-educated, you can allocate trust funds for the levels of educational experiences you want your family to experience. You may also provide for a scholarship-matching program, thus inspiring educational excellence as well. Considering the rising cost of education, this may be an option your loved ones would be particularly grateful for.
Incentive trust provisions are meant to do exactly that, incentivize your loved ones toward certain actions and habits. For example, you could create a wage-matching program, thus motivating your children to be gainfully employed. You could also assist in buying a home or starting a business. You may also allocate funding for family vacations if that was important to you. By tying funds to certain life decisions, you are promoting positive life choices while simultaneously did-incentivizing more potentially damaging decisions.
Charitable trusts or foundations:
If contributing to charity is important to you, you can include an ongoing contribution program after your passing. You are expressing your priorities with the hope that your children will follow your example and become philanthropists as well.
As long as you are not promoting life choices that are illegal or against public policy, your estate plan can be incredibly flexible in expressing and carrying out your wishes. If you are curious about how an estate plan can work in your situation, contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary initial meeting to discuss this in more detail.