What ‘Non-Financial Assets’ Should Be Included in Your Estate Plan? (Part 1)

Much of estate planning focuses on financial planning and documents such as wills and trusts. While making these plans for how you will pass on your physical assets, it is also an opportune time to focus on your intangibles. What impact do you want to have on your family and the world, and what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to establish and pass on memories, values, traditions, philanthropic vision, skills, and beliefs together with your family?

7 Components of a Non-Financial Legacy

Here are 3 intangible components to consider in your estate planning process, and I will write about 4 more next week:

1. Beliefs, Values and Vision

Begin by identifying what you believe in, and which of your beliefs are most important to you. Writing a Personal Legacy Statement can be a good place to start and can help guide you in the right direction. If this is something you and your family members want to build together, you could also create a joint family mission, a family coat of arms or brand, or a simple set of rules that your family wants to live by.

You could begin by bringing your family together and asking – “What does family mean to you?” This could take the form of a family mantra, values, or rules that you create together and could then post or display somewhere in the house. You might also want to design a coat of arms representing your family and these values. Members of your family could draw their versions of it, or you could even hire a graphic designer to create this symbol for your family.

2. Master Stories

Each of us has specific experiences that impact us more than others and shape who we are and how we think about the world, something Jewish theologian Michael Goldberg termed “master stories.” Each person has different master stories depending on the unique events of their lives and how they processed them. Master stories might include the story of how you met your spouse or best friend, how hard you worked to get your degree or dream job, or the first time you played your favorite sport or performed on stage. Master stories might seem very simple, like a childhood memory of watching fireflies with your sibling. The key part of these stories is how it marked a turning point in your perception.

It is important to record these stories in some way – whether in writing, audio, or video – and to make them available to your family.

3. Experiential Bonds

Experiential bonds are important one-time events or repeated experiences that you and your family share together and that you can remember with fondness. These are events that are planned and put in your calendar, often to celebrate the life milestones that give structure to our journey through life. The main point of these experiences is to spend time together, strengthen relationships, and celebrate one another.

Consider the traditions or events that have the greatest significance for you and your loved ones. These could be major life events, but they might also be special days or “small” reasons to celebrate that are totally unique to your family. How can you honor and immortalize these meaningful experiences? These memories can be recorded and kept in a physical way through something as simple as taking pictures to post on social media or to print for an album, by writing a letter by hand to congratulate your loved one, or by keeping mementos from the event to display on a shelf or in a shadow box.

Next week, I will write about 4 more non-financial assets to consider as a part of the legacy you want to build and leave behind for your loved ones.