In survey after survey, people report that the most important thing they can receive from their parents or grandparents as an inheritance is a legacy of family stories and personal histories. While many people think that inheritance and legacy planning focus solely on questions of property, those who stand to inherit often believe much differently. In a 2012 survey conducted by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, respondents overwhelmingly reported that they valued keeping their family history’s life more than anything else.
Boomers and Elders Agree on Legacy Issues
The survey asked baby boomers and Americans age 72 and older a range of questions about inheritances and family legacies. The vast majority of baby boomers who responded, 86%, said that the most important part of their personal legacy was to be able to leave behind family histories and stories that were kept alive by other family members. 74% of elderly Americans said the same.
These results were very similar to those found by a previous survey conducted by the same company. In 2005, Allianz Life surveyed baby boomers and elderly Americans about family heirlooms, personal mementos, and other inheritances. Only 9% of the baby boomers who responded said they were eager to receiving a monetary inheritance, while 14% of elderly Americans said that such inheritances were important parts of their legacy.
The vast majority of people, it seems, places much less importance on inheriting money than on preserving family stories.
Preserving Your Stories and Your Family Legacy
The question of how to preserve family history is an important one to ask yourself. Many families tell stories about their history to one another, but those stories can be easily lost as family members die. Preserving important mementos can be relatively easy by creating specific estate planning tools, but preserving memories and stories is much harder to do.
Having a tangible reminder of the family histories and personal details is essential if you want to keep the stories alive. You can, for example, begin preserving your legacy by reviewing old photo albums. You can write down details about each photo either on the back of each photo, or keep notes on a separate piece of paper or document. With the details in hand you can then begin assembling stories. You can either write the stories done yourself, or if you are more ambitious, hire someone to write them for you.
You can also assemble your photos into a tangible product, such as a scrapbook or personal family history. Digital and desktop publishing also gives you the option of creating digital versions that you can much more easily share with other family members.
Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.