Estate Planning-Values Are More Important Than Valuables

In 2008, I had a couple come to me distraught about their financial position.  They had built up real estate holdings, investment assets, cash value life insurance, and other assets.  They were well into their retirement season when the financial crisis hit with a vengeance.  Family focused, hard working, community minded, this couple needed to make some difficult decisions about their financial situation.

We laid everything out on the table and discussed what was important.  They needed sustainable cash flow and shared that they wanted to leave their family a financial inheritance. We looked at the numbers and gave advice that included pivoting on where they were living, their spending priorities, how income was coming to them, family support and the possibility of returning to work.  We worked together to get the numbers to a place where they felt comfortable.

We then started talking about the “inheritance”. With the cash flow planning we did, there would not be much left in their financial bucket if they were blessed to live another 25 years.  I shared with them that passing on their values was much more important than passing on their valuables.  That legacies are more than legal documents and financial assets.

I knew this couple well.  Their contributions of time, talent and treasures to their community had been generous over the years.  Their involvement with their family was admirable.  I had them focus on character assets that had served them well and how those assets were continuing to grow.  The enduring legacies are the heart gifts imbued with love, faith and wisdom.   Their legacy could not be bought with a life insurance contract, passed on through appreciated assets, or scripted out in a will.  It was more valuable than gold.

Would it be easier to face the fact that we are going to die if we lived life with more intention on what is important?  We spend a lifetime building financial wealth to get to an imaginary line called retirement.  It is important to plan, be wise stewards of what you have, manage your cash flow efficiently, enjoy the banquet of your labors and consider “how much is enough” for yourselves and your heirs.  Yes, get the wills, trusts, beneficiary designations, and titling set up.  Consider tax implications and how current laws will impact you.   Yet, there is more!

There is so much that is out of our total control.  How long we live, what lifequakes we will experience along the way, how will the markets perform, what will happen with taxes, who will be running the country to name JUST a few.  What is in your control is how you take care of yourself and live authentically, compassionately, and kindly.  What we can do is show up every day for those you care about, how you pour forward into your community and causes you are committed to and how you handle what life throws your way.  We can look at the financial resources we have and do the best we can with them given what is important to us in whichever life season we find ourselves.


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