How do you transfer what matters most to those who matter most to you?
That is the central question of estate planning.
And it’s the chief area where estate planners and their clients miss the mark. Misconceptions seem to rule the day: “Estate planning is legal and technical rigmarole”, “It’s out of reach”, “It’s just a financial planning box to check”, “I have a will and a trust buttoned up so we’re all set!”, “I’ll handle all that when…”
Let’s return to that central question.
What do you want to transfer to those who matter most to you? What are the resources, values, stories, memories, relationships, character, and future you want to give them? Do you have a desire to leave behind tools that will bless your kids and future generations of your family for years to come?
Defining your Family Legacy starts with having a clear vision and plan for protecting, preserving, and perpetuating all of your assets.
We believe everyone has four types of assets:
Imagine you could only pick two types of assets to leave to your children and future generations. Which two would you choose? You have to keep two types and drop two types.
My guess is that if you truly had to choose only two types, you wouldn’t choose to keep the “financial” type. Money is a tool—a wonderful tool, but a tool nonetheless. It’s a tool we use to help us live the life that matters to us. It’s like gas in your car. It helps you get around and it gives you options, but whenever you fill up your tank, the next question is… “Where are we going?”
After looking over these four types of assets and pondering which ones are ultimately the most valuable, think back to the chief question of estate planning: Do you have a plan for how to transfer what matters most to those who matter most to you?
It’s easy to transfer financial assets—you can hire someone to handle it for you!—but it takes discipline, forethought, and a stewardship mindset to intentionally focus on transferring the other assets.
The technical and legal stuff is important. Really important. And isn’t that part of why you decided to bring Lifeworks into your life? We’re here so that you don’t have to worry about the technical and legal. We’re here so that you can do what only you can do—passing on what matters most to those who matter most to you. You can’t hire that out.
“If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds and instill into them just principles, we are then engraving that upon tablets which no time will efface, but will brighten and brighten to all eternity.”
– Daniel Webster
Death is Life’s Change Agent
In his commencement speech at Stanford on June 12th, 2005, Steve Jobs enunciated, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything… just fall[s] away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. . . Death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.”
This “change agent” compels us to go beyond the mere legal work—which is the easy part—into passing true and lasting value on to the next generation by transferring what matters most—which is the part only you can do.
We want to introduce a thought exercise for you, no matter your age or state in life. Use this exercise to have good conversations with those most important to you:
“If I had exactly one more year to live, who are the 3–6 people I feel I am most responsible to prepare for my passing?” Consider family, friends, colleagues, community members…
“What do I need to give them, teach them, or transfer to them so that the people who matter most to me can live a life of meaning and purpose?”
“If I died exactly 24 hours from now, what would I most regret not passing on to those on my list?”
We invite you to discuss this exercise with your kids, your spouse, your friends, whoever matters most to you. These things cannot stay in your head. No matter how good your intentions are, it will come to nothing if you don’t discuss and share with those top 3–6 people.
We look forward to walking this journey with you, this journey of living an intentional life.
And keep an eye out for more estate planning content in the coming weeks.
“Leaving no money but passing values to your heirs is acceptable. They likely will manage their lives well. Leaving money and passing values to your heirs is usually a positive situation. They just may change the world. Leaving money to heirs who have poorly developed values is asking for trouble.”
– Scott Fithian, Values Based Estate Planning
Lifeworks is a registered investment advisor