Financial planning: Take steps to create a lasting legacy

Jesse Bunse

Jesse Bunse

Courtesy photo

How often do you think about the legacy you will leave behind?

It’s not something many people like to think about because it carries with it the ultimate consideration of our own mortality. What many don’t realize though, is that regardless of the effort we put into having an impact once we are gone, passing on wealth in any amount does have an impact — one that can be positive or negative.

In counseling families with means, we see some who are doing a great job of preparing future generations for the blessing (and challenge) of receiving a financial inheritance. We see others struggling with how to pass on wealth to children and grandchildren who may be unprepared to receive it, and in some cases might not appreciate the hard work that led to the resources.

In cases of multi-generational wealth, heirs may not even know the stories of those who came before. We will leave the problem of teaching heirs the practical financial literacy skills needed to handle money for another day.

For now, we’ll focus on some practical ways that families can craft a strong and lasting legacy.

Share stories of past generations

Historically, many who received an inheritance didn’t get an IRA or brokerage account but a business or trade. In many ways, this made passing on a legacy easier.

In today’s world, where children may not directly follow in the footsteps of their parents, keeping the stories alive of previous generations and how they struggled and built their lives is important. You might be surprised how interested grown children will be in these stories. Videos of my grandparents at the family farm during a family reunion many years ago are treasured keepsakes that will help my son know our family heritage.

Build family unity

Money doesn’t solve everything, and in many cases can exacerbate family issues. However, using it to create memories and spend time together (even when children and grandchildren are older) can build a sense of family unity. It can be easy as families disperse across the country, life gets busier, and family reunions become rarer to lose the family identity. If finances allow, consider allocating some resources to gathering the family together outside of holidays to relax, remember and focus on maintaining family relationships you hope will continue long after you are gone.

Share your own stories

While I don’t recommend waiting until you are gone to share these, having them written or recorded digitally can be a great blessing to future generations you may never meet and can help your children and grandchildren as they keep your legacy alive. There are countless tools and resources out there to assist with this.

Prepare heirs for financial resources

Many families do not want children and grandchildren to know how much they may receive, and there can be good reasons for this, but often it can be a red flag that they are not prepared in the first place. It can be easy to let guilt over these circumstances or frustration over choices they made paralyze you. The simple fact, though, is that if you don’t address it, someday they will receive these resources, and without knowledge and training the results can be disastrous. This is where wise trust and estate planning is crucial.

You don’t have to give it all to heirs

If charitable giving is a priority, get heirs involved and consider setting up ways for your heirs to help in carrying out your charitable intentions. I’ve previously written on specific tools and strategies, like donor advised funds, that can make this easy and help to pass on a legacy of generosity.

Growing and protecting the fruits of a lifetime of work is important, but if you are just left with a pile of money but no enduring legacy then what was the point of all that effort? We strongly encourage talking with a fiduciary adviser skilled in holding these discussions to ensure that you craft a lasting legacy that will be a blessing for generations to come.

Jesse Bunse, CRPC is a Certified Financial Planner professional and a member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City. He serves as Senior Financial Planner with Keen Wealth Advisors, an SEC registered investment advisor located in Overland Park.


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