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Jesse Bunce

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How often do you think about the legacy you will leave?

It’s not something most people like to think about because it brings with it the ultimate consideration of our mortality. What most people don’t realize, however, is that no matter how hard we try to make an impact after we’re gone, the transfer of wealth has an impact of any size, be it positive or negative.

In advising families with funds, we see some who are doing a great job of preparing future generations for the blessing (and challenge) of receiving a financial inheritance. We see others struggling with how to pass on wealth to children and grandchildren who may not be ready to receive it and in some cases may not appreciate the hard work that led to the resources.

In the case of multigenerational wealth, descendants may not even know the stories of those who came before. We’ll leave the task of teaching heirs the practical financial literacy skills needed to handle money for another day.

For now, we’ll focus on some practical ways families can create strong and lasting legacies.

Share stories from past generations

Historically, most people who received an inheritance did not receive an IRA or brokerage account, but a business or trade. In many ways, this made it easier to pass on an inheritance.

In today’s world, where children may not directly follow in their parents’ footsteps, it is important to preserve the stories of previous generations and how they struggled and built their lives. You might be surprised how much older children will be interested in these stories. Videos of my grandparents on the family farm at family reunions many years ago are treasured keepsakes that will help my son learn about our family heritage.

Build family unity

Money doesn’t solve everything, and in many cases it can exacerbate family problems. However, using it to create memories and spend time together (even when the children and grandchildren are grown) can create a sense of family togetherness. It can be easy as families disperse across the country, life becomes busier and family reunions become less frequent, losing the family identity. If finances allow, consider devoting some resources to family gatherings outside of the holidays to relax, reminisce, and focus on maintaining the family relationships you hope will continue long after you’re gone.

Share your own stories

While I don’t recommend waiting until you’re gone to share them, having them written down or digitally recorded can be a great blessing to future generations you’ll never meet, and can help your children and grandchildren as they keep your legacy alive. : There are countless tools and resources to help with this.

Prepare heirs for financial resources

Many families don’t want their children and grandchildren to know how much they can get, and there may be good reasons for that, but it can often be a red flag that they aren’t prepared in the first place. It can be easy to let guilt over these circumstances or frustration over the choices they made paralyze you. The simple fact, however, is that if you don’t address it, one day they will get those resources, and without knowledge and training, the results can be disastrous. This is where prudent trust and estate planning is important.

You don’t have to give it all to your heirs

If charitable giving is a priority, involve heirs and consider creating ways for your heirs to help carry out your charitable intentions. I’ve written before about specific tools and strategies, such as donor-advised funds, that can facilitate this and help pass on a legacy of generosity.

Growing and protecting the fruits of a lifetime’s work is important, but if you’re just left with a pile of money but no lasting legacy, what was the point of all that effort? We strongly encourage speaking with a trusted advisor skilled in conducting these discussions to ensure you create a lasting legacy that will be a blessing for generations to come.

Jesse Bunse, CRPC is a Certified Financial Planner and a member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City. He serves as a Senior Financial Planner with Keen Wealth Advisors, an SEC-registered investment advisor located in Overland Park.

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