When it comes to family values, how do you want to be remembered? What qualities do you want to pass on to your children, so your memory lives on through them? Answers to these questions should play a key role in defining your legacy. Because a legacy isn’t just about leaving material assets to your kids, but it’s leaving them with an example to follow. The more your children understand and echo your family’s values and priorities, the more likely they are to retain and continue to grow their inheritance when you’re gone.
How then do you define your legacy and your values? Try the following exercises, preferably with the children involved.
1. Brainstorm Your Priorities.
Pass out paper and pencil to everyone at the table, and have everyone start making a list of things that are important to them. No right or wrong answers here—they can be as specific as “a new car” or as general as “world peace” or a deeper spiritual life.
From there, collaborate on another list of general family priorities. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Knowing your shared priorities will help give direction on where the money should go—and when you involve your children in the process, they immediately have a vested interest in seeing those plans fulfilled.
2. Identify Your Causes.
In this exercise, get the family thinking outside themselves—about causes, charities and community outreach beyond their personal desires. Which causes should the family support? If you don’t already have a list of charities you’re regularly supporting, try identifying some using the priorities you in the previous step.
3. Create a Family Mission Statement.
The value of a mission statement may be obvious if you’re a business owner or executive. But have you considered that your family could also benefit from such a guidepost? Drawing upon what you’ve learned in the previous exercises, see if you can collaborate with the family on creating a one- or two-sentence mission statement. If you need some guidance, success.com and Live Bold & Bloom. Both have step-by-step instructions for crafting a personal mission statement that you can adapt as a family.
4. Identify Three Ways to Fulfill Your Family Mission.
Before leaving the table, identify three things that you can do, to further your family’s mission. You may come up with more ideas, but the point of this isn’t to come up with volume. It’s to have a few concrete items you can put on the agenda–things that will help galvanize your family’s sense of mission.
Telling your family members what’s important to you will only go so far in promoting your legacy. Therefore involve them in clarifying your family’s values; encourage them to take ownership of these ideals. Once they’ve done this, they’re more likely to carry on your legacy when you pass on. To learn more about legacy-based estate planning, call our offices, 501-221-7776.