Every one of us receives and passes on an inheritance. The inheritance may not be an accumulation of earthly possessions or acquired riches, but whether we realize it or not, our choices, words, actions, and values will impact someone and form the heritage we hand down. — Ben Hardesty
Successful estate planning is not just about passing on your wealth. That is the process, but that is not necessarily what you are doing. Estate planning gives you an opportunity to teach and pass on your values to your loved ones long after you are gone. Deciding how you want to pass on your property is the way in which you can teach these values. Your values have made you who you are and have made you as successful as you are. How can you help your descendants use their inheritance from you in the same way-or better-than you used your money? If your children and grandchildren do not have your same values, your wealth may very well be wasted.
However, figuring out a way to express your values on a piece of paper is not easy. We live our values every day, but sharing them can be harder. Below is a little exercise that you may find helpful to identify your moral code, which can in turn help you express and share it to your loved ones.
The Science of Surfacing Your Subconscious Values
David Allen, an author on productivity, talks about vertical project planning. This type of planning focusing on identifying the “why’s” and “what’s” of a project before diving into the details. For example, complete this sentence:
“I would gladly give other complete freedom to do this as long as they…”
Whatever “this” is will determine your answer. As an example, let’s say you and your siblings are planning an extended family reunion. Your answers may have been something like:
…create a budget and get buy-in from the relatives to help pay.
…make sure to review the guest list with Mom;
…they find a nice venue close to my parents’ house.
Now, regarding estate planning and expressing your values, the sentence may read as:
“I would give one of my children free rein to distribute my wealth and guide my other descendants to living great lives as long as they…”
…be sure to emphasize my central values of charity, honesty, and hard-work;
…explain how I envision my inheritance being use so my descendants understand exactly what I prefer;
…there is a way to consistently discuss my values so my loved ones do not forget about my vision;
…they enforce my values and do not distribute my assets to my descendants unless they are truly living these values.
Whatever your answers are, those are your values and your vision on teaching them.
Estate planning is about family. Yes, you are passing on your wealth in a specific way, but you have an opportunity to teach and mold your loved ones to making positive decisions for years and decades after you pass. To reach this goal, you need to have a clear understanding of your values and a clear method of communicating them, so your values can continues to be taught. Contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary initial meeting to begin this values-based planning.