You’ve spent your whole life building a secure financial future for your family and have a solid financial and estate plan. But, have you prepared your family for the inheritances they will receive as part of that planning? Preserving wealth is about more than just passing along assets – it’s about preparing future generations to be good stewards of your financial wealth through a shared vision of your family’s values and priorities.
Defining Wealth Goes Beyond Dollars
The four generally recognized forms of wealth
Human. For most people, core values include: family, health, talents, background and attitudes. Examples: Would you rather have Shakespeare’s pen or his wit? Michael Jordan’s shoes or his jump shot? Shakespeare’s pen and Jordan’s jump shot are both examples of human wealth. (This can sometimes include family heirlooms that have little or no real financial value, but are treasures to family members.)
Intellectual. This is the sum total of our life experiences, including our formal and informal education. This may include our commitment to spiritual beliefs or practices (although some families separate that out as “spiritual wealth”).
Financial. This refers to our collective financial assets or material wealth: real estate, cars, cash accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance and retirement accounts.
Social. These include both our social resources (relationship, family and community support, etc.) and our contributions back to society (meeting our responsibilities as good citizens and neighbors, charitable gifts and volunteer work). It includes the network of social connections that exist between people and their shared values and norms of behavior, which enables and encourages mutually advantageous social cooperation.
Additional commonly identified forms of family wealth
Relationships. Personal and business relationships may be among the most valuable assets of the family, particularly in families who own a business. Although this is included in the definition of social wealth for some families, in other families it is so important it’s identified separately.
Spiritual. Faith and spiritual beliefs and relationships may also be among the most valuable assets of a family, although some families include this under either intellectual or social wealth.
Passing Along Financial and Familial Wealth
A shared vision of values and priorities
When it comes to passing on an inheritance, financial assets are undoubtedly important, but multiple studies show it’s more far-reaching to receive and pass on the family’s values, stories, life lessons and traditions. By creating a culture of communication, trust and mentoring within your family, you can encourage strong bonds and shared values that can last for generations.
These questions can help you and your family discover together the values and ideas that are significant to you.
- What is the purpose(s) of your family and the value of keeping it together?
- What types of wealth are most important to you? (For example, human or intellectual? Social or financial?)
- What type of communication styles does each member of your family have? (For example, submissive or aggressive? Passive or assertive?)
- What values do you find admirable?
- What are the value and benefits of your family’s financial wealth?
- If your family had a mission statement, what would it be?
Trust & Estate Planning
With a shared understanding of what wealth means to you and the values you want to pass along to future generations, you’ll be better able to evaluate how your trust and estate plan can help you achieve your goals.