Creating an Enduring, Intangible Legacy

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Published by Beth Schanou,

Creating a lasting legacy requires more than legal documents transferring material assets. Although a considerable amount of time is spent on the estate planning process, often the transfer of wisdom, insight, experience and other similar intangibles are not considered. As a result, there could be unnecessary loss of real value to family and friends. Real value can be shared through one’s wisdom, insights and experience, if it is communicated.

Why should this information be communicated? Without an appreciation of the work and wisdom that went into building wealth received, heirs may have a more difficult time retaining that legacy. Whether it’s a $100 gift or a $100,000 inheritance, the vast majority of humans give in to the tendency to use unearned wealth for the instant gratification of more consumption. In other words, that $100 gift could quickly turn into new shoes or clothes.

Consider the positive impact that could be created by sharing your personal values, beliefs, life stories and advice to future generations. In creating what is commonly referred to as an Ethical Will, individuals can capture the essence of what has been important to them and leave a lasting message. The message could be shared after one’s passing or during life while there is time for discussion and to answer questions.

Ethical Wills take many forms depending on the creator. It could include:

  • A written letter or autobiographical narrative
  • A printed book or bound album
  • Audio messages, sound bites or music
  • Videos or photographs

The most difficult part is getting started, but you should not delay. Think of your Ethical Will as a work in progress in which you can start small and add to it or change it over time. To aid you in the beginning, consider what is the most important thing you would not want left unsaid if you were not here tomorrow. Relax and be yourself. This is a 30,000 foot view made for those you love.

If you are struggling for content, reflect on the following:

  • Insights into happiness and business success
  • Important events in life and historical information that might be lost if not transmitted
  • Recounting major lifetime decisions
  • Recommendations about favorite books, songs, movies, quotes and places to visit
  • Statement of values and examples of how they were used to make difficult decisions
  • Lessons from loved ones
  • Hopes for the future
  • Advice
  • Expressions of love, gratitude, appreciation and forgiveness
  • For business owners, seek to create and reinforce a higher level of cooperation and trust among family or group members

Your Ethical Will may be your most valuable asset you leave behind for your loved ones. If you haven’t begun preparing your Ethical Will, there’s no time like the present to get started!

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