Back in December I blogged about estate planning not being about money and described the beginning of a journey to find the legacy you want to leave to your children, today I’m going to write about another part of that journey… finding your own voice.

Part of finding your legacy means looking for and putting your own voice into your documents.  Recently I blogged about George Washington’s Will and the way he breathed life into his estate plan by describing the importance of his swords bequeathed to his nephews and the even more important freedoms for which they stood.  Not all of us can be the father of our country, but all of us can bequeath the lessons of a lifetime and speak to our descendants through our estate plan.

Estate planning interviews that begin with how much money you have and to whom do you want to leave it are likely to end there as well.  Interviews that beginning by  listening to your own life’s story give you an opportunity to explore who you are, what you have done, and what is important to you.

When I was first starting out as an inexperienced estate planning attorney, I was often so in awe of my clients who were worth a lot of money that I couldn’t wait to try to impress them in return with the amount of knowledge I had and to use that knowledge to save them even more money.  I was so awe struck, that I neglected to appreciate the value of who they were.  If it was often a less than satisfying personal relationship for me, I slowly realized, it must have been mutually unsatisfactory for my clients as well.

I began to understand if I first learned who my clients were, I would soon appreciate what they valued, and it would become apparent how they had managed to accumulate the wealth and why they were now asking me to preserve it for their descendants.

Certainly passing along hard earned money is a priority for some clients, but poll after poll and personal experience say that what clients really want to deliver to the next generation is their own legacy.  Passing on the money is easy; passing on your legacy is harder.

I have experimented with various tools for getting my clients in touch with their values for estate planning purposes.  The best strategy is active listening.  The hard part is that it is so easy, it doesn’t seem like I am working, I am learning.  But as I learn from my clients, their voices ring in my head.  As I draft their documents, who they are becomes embedded within the corners of the document creating a monument that will live at least as long as the money.

What do you value?  Let me help you deliver those values to the next generation and maybe the generation after that.