How will you define your legacy?
by: Charles Auerbach
Part of the aging process is the realization that we are not immortal and that life goes on beyond our being here. While there is much in life that is out of our control, there is one very important thing we can control. That is our legacy. Have you thought about what you want to pass on to your children, grandchildren, and generations yet unborn? Of course, you can always leave your valuables (assets).
But are assets alone enough to establish an appropriate legacy? History tells us the answer to this question is “no.” A startling statistic is that 60 percent of the wealth in this country is dissipated at the end of the second generation, and 90 percent is gone by the end of the third generation. Why? Experts that have studied this phenomenon attribute it largely to the failure of the wealth creators to communicate their legacy of values to their heirs. In effect, these folks passed on their valuables without passing on the values attached to them.
The process of defining your values is not necessarily an easy one. It requires careful introspection and an ability to look deep inside ones self to identify those beliefs that are the essence of your being and are core to your system of values. And, it further requires that these values be memorialized in a manner that can easily be communicated to your heirs—both living and yet to come. Finally, once put to writing, the hardest part is to physically impart these values in such a way that they will forever leave a lasting impression of who you are, how you have lived your life, and what message you want to leave that will have a permanent impact on future generations.
To aid our clients in this endeavor, we have created a coaching program we call “Generation to Generation.” Through a process called Guided Discovery, we help our clients first establish their values and their message and then help them to commit this in writing in the form of a Vision Statement.
The next step of the process involves the artful manner in assisting the clients in properly communicating the Vision Statement to their heirs. Beyond this, the coaching process is designed to provide a venue for an ongoing dialogue with the heirs in a way that the legacy created by the parents is continually reinforced.
All through this process, our role is to work with our client’s other professional advisors, including their attorney, to insure that the Vision Statement is carefully integrated into their formalized estate plan.