Wisdom and death. These two words maintain an interesting relationship. Some people only gain the former after the latter has happened to someone close to them. How many times have we all heard that someone changes their outlook on life after the death of a loved one? There are multiple social media memes that ask you to hit “like” if you would like to have a parent back to consult with. In other instances, people are only considered to be wise long after they pass away. Indeed, this is the wisdom of the ages.
In our line of work, people often ask how to structure the transfer of a particular tangible asset to mitigate taxes, maximize wealth, or stare off family rivalry. Yet, creating an estate plan is more than just an outline on pieces of paper of who you will be leaving money behind for your loved ones. While tangible wealth may be the first thing in mind for many people, true wealth encompasses so much more than just your financial assets. Balance sheets and inventory lists only show what happened during a person’s life. The true wealth is the family values, life lessons, means to success, and stories that describe the “how”. Unfortunately, this wisdom will most likely be lost after a person’s death.
We are all defined by memories and experiences – from the birth of your first child to the successful launch of your first business. These moments of triumph and defeat are filled with memories and life lessons that are not able to be preserved through traditional estate planning methods and documents. One simply cannot reduce education, experiences, and intelligence to a document. Instead, why not bequeath the lessons of a lifetime and speak to your descendants by preserving your memory in a legacy interview video. By preserving your memories, advice, life lessons, and who you are as a person; your children, grandchildren, and other members of your family will have a way to listen to your voice and see your personality shine through the video.
What is a Legacy Interview?
Our estate planning practice guides clients on different strategies for passing down financial assets as well as intangible assets such as life experiences, love, and wisdom. The initial consultation begins by listening to your life’s story, exploring who you are and how you got to where you are today. If we can understand who our clients are, we can then appreciate what they value to be able to shape their plan to meet your core values1. Building an estate plan around your family’s core values is a powerful concept. Many people do this the other way around. They begin their estate planning journey and then attempt to figure out their core values which makes planning much more difficult.
All of our estate plans include a legacy interview. We begin by working from our carefully crafted list of questions around topics of your choosing. We customize the interview to suit your individual wants and motivations for the interview to ensure that your wisdom, love, and life experiences, all part of your rich legacy, are included.
After the signing of your estate plan, you will sit down with us and be interviewed on the questions we have customized for you. The video will feature you answering questions about your family history, life lessons learned, and what matters most to you and your kids – the personal, spiritual, and emotional assets. By understanding what your hopes are for your descendants, what life lessons were most important to you, and what values you want most for them we are able to help you in telling a story that will last for generations to come.
One powerful example of passing wisdom to the next generation are the notes of Major Doug Zembiec (USMC) who was killed in action on May 11, 2007. Major Zembiec intended to publish a book on leadership after he retired from the Marine Corps.2
“Be a man of principle. Fight for what you believe in. Keep your word. Live with integrity. Be brave. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Serve your country. Teach. Mentor. Give something back to society. Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble, but be self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader, not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle. Take responsibility for your actions.” It is the most fitting description of Doug that I have ever read or heard. And it should be. He knew its author longest. Some quotes in Douglas’s books had people’s names that the quotes belonged to, some did not. After this quote, simply – “Principles my father taught me.”
Preserving your legacy can ensure that your future generations get to fully appreciate all your sacrifices and hard work as it is those sacrifices that largely afford them the opportunities they get to enjoy today. Preserving your intangible wealth is even more important than the physical assets. Let’s get together to speak
1 For more information about the importance of establishing core values for your family, we highly encourage The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
2 Click here to read more about Major Zembiec’s story and here for the full quote.