After all is said and done, what is the real legacy you leave? How will people remember you? Money and property are important, but they can also make emotions run high and introduce new problems.
Perhaps a deeper introspection is needed. The Ancient Greek philosopher Pericles said, “What we leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” The mark we make on our families will continue on — good or bad — far longer than the money and property we leave.
For business owners who want their “baby” (the business they spent a lifetime growing) to stay in the family and continue beyond them, the statistics are alarming! Less than ½ survive to the second generation, and less than 1/3 of those survive to the third generation!
What is the cause of this alarming trend?
There is a different mentality when creating wealth, as compared to inheriting or being gifted wealth. There are many families that pass monetary wealth to succeeding generations, only to see it dissipate in unforeseen ways.
In order to maintain the wealth, there must be some structure in place which establishes the “ground rules” and creates a way to modify those rules as needed by future generations. Writing a “Legacy Letter” that outlines the older generations’ vision is helpful in this process, and allows for open discussion within the family. This letter then can become the framework for younger generations to understand that with the wealth comes a responsibility — it’s a way to learn about the family’s relation to the wealth. This letter might include a discussion about giving back to the community that was instrumental in helping build the wealth in the first place, or a general family goal of helping those in need. Ultimately, this letter can include any information that is important in understanding the values, goals and vision of the family, so they can be passed down to future generations.