Over the past several years as we have been maturing in the estate and exit planning practice, we are noticing a definite trend in our clients. When clients first come to us, it is an exercise in the documents that need to be prepared to legally protect the family and minimize exposure to creditors and taxes. But on deeper reflection, by listening to their stories and incorporating them into the planning, a much deeper listening occurs. People relate to their stories, and that is how they relate to their legacies – how they would like to be remembered by the people around them. People are concerned about taxes and creating and maintaining wealth, but we are finding they are much more concerned about being fair with their children, promoting family harmony and providing a measure of security for their families that may not have been available to them.
Working with people to capture their stories and memorialize them in a meaningful form for them and their loved ones serves several purposes. First, it establishes the senior members’ values as it relates to the assets they have accumulated. Second, it creates a history for the family that will be lost if not preserved for generations. Many business owners who have created something from nothing would like to preserve the drive, ambition and values that got them to that place of success. They would like to see their enterprise survive and thrive serving many times as the springboard for successive generations of family to achieve even higher heights.
By going beyond the mere creation of documents and looking for the stories surrounding our clients, we have found a treasure of history, family love and attachment and legacies that will change life for these families for generations. Far from being only asset and tax driven, clients recognize the value of maintaining family harmony, family values and family mission regardless of the size of their estate or value of their business. Those things have provided the means by which they can look at what has been created or accumulated as a positive force in their families for generations to come.