“Legacy Planning” is usually interpreted as leaving money to your children and grandchildren. I think it means more.
Our legacy can be leaving our children with rich family traditions, an understanding of our family heritage, moral values, and spiritual guidance. Our legacy can also be an estate plan that will keep family out of court and spending the least amount of time and money after our death to deal with our assets.
All too often I hear of a different legacy that parents leave their children. A legacy of leaving a complete mess for their loved ones to figure out and fight about. A legacy of a box of pictures that no one knows who is in the photos or where they were taken. A legacy of a memory of mom’s famous pumpkin bread, because mom never wrote down the recipe for her family.
Here are a few tips to pass down your traditions and heritage.
- Tell a family member about why you chose to establish your own family traditions. Did you combine your mom and mother-in-laws stuffing recipes to create your own? (I did!) Did your children open one gift on Christmas Eve because your parents allowed you to do the same? (Mine was always an ornament from my grandmother – a tradition I have continued for my son.)
- Take out your box of family photos and put it on your kitchen counter. Each day take a handful and write names, events and dates on the back. My grandmother left us several photo albums marked with everyone’s name and relation to us.
- Write down a few of your famous family recipes. Make copies and include it in your Christmas cards this year.
- Buy a journal or keep one online. Each week write a story about your childhood, valuable lessons you’ve learned, favorite vacation, what you believe and why, and stories of when your children were young. Tell someone where you keep this journal or make copies for loved ones.
- Ask your children if there are family heirlooms or mementos they would like to have when you pass away. If two kids want one item, flip a coin, or let children take turns choosing items. This will help avoid family fighting later. Include this list in your estate plan.
This holiday season don’t miss out on the opportunity to share your traditions and heritage to ensure your lasting legacy of love.