As an estate planning firm our job is to help people find the best way to leave an inheritance to their loved ones; but the inheritance you leave your children can end up making a huge statement about your core family values. When planning your estate it is important to ask not only “how?” to leave a legacy, but also “why?”
These are two questions that New York Times writer Stephen Amidon has spent a lot of time considering for his Op-Ed piece “My Children Made Me Do It”. Amidon begins pondering the “how?” by bringing up recent newsworthy subjects, namely Bernie Madoff and Tom Daschle, reminding us that any legacy these two leave will be far more than mere money—and not necessarily beneficial. A parent will do just about anything for his children, writes Amidon, “…the one thing that is sure to get me thinking I should do something I really do not want to do — or perhaps even something I should not do — is the desire to endow my brood. All manner of behavior that would otherwise be considered contemptible seems to be justified in the name of inheritance.” But will it have been worth it?
The answer to that question depends in great part on how you answer the question, “why?” Do you want to leave your children a Rockefeller fortune? Merely give them a little breathing room? Or perhaps you agree with Amidon that “there is often something not quite right about these fortunate sons of the baby boom…— there is something missing here, the sense of accomplishment derived from patient effort.” Thus your goal may be less about finances and more about values.
For most people the goal is actually far simpler, at least in the beginning—they want to have enough themselves to not be a burden on their children.
Whatever your goals, with enough thought and discussion your estate plan can reflect and achieve them. The first step is to ask yourself the important questions. “Why?” is a question for you alone, but “how?” is something our firm can help you with.