By Jim Sprout
In our last Connecting Generations newsletter, we discussed the importance of having legacy conversations with your children. While you may have concerns about how your stories might be received by your children or question when the right time is to have these conversations, the important thing is to simply start. Studies have shown that 94% of parents and kids agree that these conversations are important to have. So the big question shouldn’t ask if we should tell our family stories and histories; instead, it should be: How do we begin?
When talking about your personal legacy or life story, the aspects that have the biggest impact on family members tend to be stories about your experiences and the key relationships that have been the most transformative for you.
In other words, legacy isn’t all about monetary values or assets, it’s about the personal values and perspectives that matter most.
There are a few ways to begin the legacy process. I suggest starting with an outline. To help you conceptualize the important moments and turning points in your life, categorize your thoughts into a few key areas:
- Family history and heritage: Where do you come from and what are some great stories from your childhood?
- Core values and beliefs: What has guided you throughout your life?
- Life lessons: What are the successes, and sometimes more importantly, failures that challenged you and made you who you are?
- Experience and wisdom: What have you learned that you want to share with your family?
- Hopes for the future: What do you hope your children and their children accomplish while you are with them and after you’re gone?
Rather than try to tackle this all at once, take one piece at a time and make a list of the key points you would like to share in each category. As you do this, questions around inheritance and financial planning can be woven in, but more than money, it’s the memories and experiences that your children will value and be grateful for as time goes on.
My second recommendation is to simply ask your children what they want to know about their parents, grandparents, family history, or heritage. This will help involve them in the process.
Once you have your general thoughts together, each family goes about their legacy conversations in different ways. Some families host family meetings, or you may think about incorporating these stories into your holiday traditions, or regularly over the dinner table.
Be sure to keep your children involved in the process too. Ask them question like: “What one word or memory describes our family to you?” or “What was your favorite memory of your childhood?”
Once they are engaged, and asking questions, the process goes much more smoothly.
Some families prefer to bring a more formal approach to their legacy plan, which will help keep their legacy, memories, and family experiences alive even after they are gone. You can do this by creating a legacy video or a legacy letter to discuss why you built your estate plan as you did and also share your hopes and dreams for your family’s future.
There are many interesting online resources that can further help you. ForMyChildren.com helps you create your own legacy website, complete with family photos and archives that can be released on specific days, years in the future. There is also a program called Guided Autobiography that helps you write parts of your life story to share with your family.
Each family will be different and the process can be customized to your particular needs. The topic of legacy planning can be overwhelming, so if you have any questions about starting these important conversations or would like some help outlining your legacy, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
One of the best things you can do for your children is to create your legacy plan. By starting early, creating an outline, and building it into your family gatherings, you can provide this important gift and stay connected for generations to come.