The Value of an Inheritance? Preserve the Family History
Category: Elder Law, Estate Planning
This story from San Francisco reminds us that the memory of a loved one is not about the size of the bank account inherited, but the family history
HoustonChronicle.com - Baby boomers value family history over inheritance: "[B]aby boomers say their parents' personal keepsakes, family stories and final instructions are more important than the oft-publicized trillions of dollars they're expected to inherit."
Those memories, stories, values and wishes can be easily lost. Why not take some steps today to preserve them?
- Get those old family stories on tape. When I was a child, I had to "interview" my grandmother for a class project. On those tapes is her history, from her memories of when Queen Victoria died (1901), how she came over to Ellis Island, being an immigrant in America, and traveling home to Ireland to see the changes of her home country over nearly a century. Maybe this could be a project for the kids during the next family gathering - put that digital camcorders to use.
- Identify who is in old family pictures. You may have inherited the dusty box of family photos. Many times the older generation can identify who is in them - knowledge that can be later lost. You can even copy them all to the computer and upload them to a family website to get everyone's comments as to who is who, and allow others to download copies.
- Have a frank conversation about burial options. In the event of an unexpected death, the last thing you want to be doing is find out what a person "would have wanted". Discuss burial, cremation and what to do with the ashes. What kind of remembrance would the person want? One client wanted everyone to wear purple to the funeral as it was her favorite color.
- Create a list of who gets what personal property. Many times one to the most contentious issues in an estate administration is who gets the jewelry, artwork, etc., and what happens to any personal items nobody wants. You may decide to let your kids duke it out among themselves. Or, you may want to create a list identifying items of special significance to go to friends and family members.
- Appreciate what is being given to you. Many times children don't have an expectation of inheritance and downplay it ("I don't need or want your money", they say to their parents, "I just want you.") However, I have found in my practice that the older generation, who survived depression and are proud to still be independent and debt free, are equally proud to have something to give. So be gracious in your acceptance of gifts, and remember how much harder it was for them to create what it is they have given you then for you to create it yourself.