You come into the world a blank slate, and as you grow, you gain wisdom. You’ve planned your estate to leave physical assets to beneficiaries, but what about leaving them something just as important but less tangible: the hard-won wisdom you’ve accumulated over your life. Along with the physical assets, how about empowering your family and friends to learn from your mistakes, and profit from your successes?
Living (and Other) Trusts
If you’re a regular reader of my column, you already know a properly-funded living trust avoids probate. But what if you have concerns about some of your beneficiaries’ ability to handle a windfall? Living trusts can be structured to protect beneficiaries from themselves and others. For example, incentivizing the beneficiary by only paying out money when he or she meets certain conditions, such as finishing college or staying clean and sober, can help ensure your gift enhances, rather than impedes, a successful and fulfilling life. Incentives combined with a personal statement explaining why you’ve put conditions on the beneficiary’s inheritance offers wisdom, guidance, and a demonstration of love to the next generation.
You can (and should!) create a personal video. You may have seen or heard of a videotaped “reading of the will”. That’s not what I’m talking about. One of the most powerful gifts you can leave your loved ones is a video describing your stories, experiences, values, and wisdom. I call this a legacy video and we include it a part of every living trust package we do for clients. It’s that important. And if you already have a family video collection, consider making a new video including favorite snippets and commenting on the earlier days. Time gives you perspective and appreciation, and those gifts are priceless. The memories and meaning that these videos have will be memorialized for generations to come.
The Old-Fashioned Way
Scrapbooking is a time-honored pastime that’s recently experienced a renaissance. Pass on journals, photos, newspaper clippings and other ephemera via scrapbooks or albums. You can leave specially constructed letters inside for your family and loved ones. While only one family member can have the physical scrapbook at any one time, digital scrapbooking tools are fast-evolving and now allow you to create either a digital version or multiple print copies so that all your loved ones can share your life and thoughts.
Leave a History, Not Just Items
When you’re bequeathing antiques, art, jewelry and the like, leave the beneficiary a history of the piece and why it was important to you. If it’s a family heirloom, write down whom it has passed to, from generation to generation. It’s possible the family ties outweigh the actual value of the item. Sharing these stories will make a family heirloom cherished even more.
Regardless of how you’re leaving your memories and the meaning behind them to the next generation, you want to make sure that your family avoids unnecessary hassle and expense. That all starts with a living trust. But estate planning can – and should – be so much more than just a set of documents. Remember, the best plans bequeath not just financial assets, but the troves of wisdom and personal wealth you’ve accumulated, too.
Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and securing your legacy,