I like to think of Legacy planning, like a way to not only make your Mark on future generations, but also incentivize and empower them. I think that we have all seen examples of those who have inherited the sum of money on Monday and then on Tuesday or soon after have went out and bought a new car or shiny expensive toy. It is interesting to think of how much time and effort the earner of that money took making the money versus the time it took the receiver to spend it. If the beneficiary remembers the donor at all, it might be a fleeting thought when someone asked him or her about how much the new toy cost.
One way to think of Legacy Planning is to imagine a resume. If you could give your heirs bullets on their resume that would help them through life, what would be on it? What does it take to succeed in life, while building character at the same time? I personally think that basic maintenance and repair skills on a home or car can be extremely helpful to your own self and family and for friends and others around you. When I find someone that works on their own cars, remodels their own home, or even patches their own drywall they move up several notches in my book. These so-called “man-skills” are very useful in life, but unless you learn them when you are young, you never seem to have the time to learn them later. So how would I as a parent and future grandparent help my children and grandchildren to learn these skills? I will put a provision in my trust, that will disburse $1,000 or $2,000 to anyone of my grandchildren who works in construction or auto-repair related industry for six months or a related amount of hours. Hopefully, this would give them the needed push to work in the manual labor job and learn these life skills.
There are many life experiences that you have to chase after and are typically not exciting by themselves but are life-enriching. The price of tuition of these experiences is typically not an accurate reflection of their true value over time. Additional monetary compensation can persuade the heir to get out of their comfort zone and give help them develop more confidence and abilities. I have briefly compiled a list of experiences or bullets on a life resume that I think are important.
- work in construction for 6 months
- change the oil in your car 10 times
- Buy and sell 20 items at a profit
- Work 70 hours/week in manual labor for a month
- Get published
- Produce 50 lbs of food from vegetable garden in a summer
- Start a business
- Meet and become friends with 10 influential community members
- Job shadow 4 people
- Refer $2000 in business to someone
- Watch 3 or 4 court proceedings
- Join Toast Masters for one year
- Read 50 books on a list
- Live 3 months in non-English speaking country
- Make a product and sell 20 of them
- 15 minute presentation in front of an audience of 50
- Scholarship (consider matching all money received from a scholarship)
- Acquire a residual income source
- Log 100 service hours in one year
- Eagle Scout
In the end, your values and what you consider important will determine the items on your list. But, every gift received by your heirs will remind them of your personality and values. They will come to know you and what you stood for long after you are gone. Then, like the pharaohs of old, you will have left your Legacy. This type of Estate Planning is practical and functions in passing on wealth, but also experience that money can’t buy.