Storytelling is a skill we learn very early in life. Before we can read and write; we make up stories. We entertain ourselves and others with our stories, and we fill in gaps for what we don’t know.
As a child, I regularly used the three blocks from home to school to make up vivid stories. I would be so engrossed I wasn’t aware of talking out loud to myself, resulting in a fair amount of teasing.
Stories can also jump out of boxes when opened flaps reveal the past.
In recent months, I have been helping my mother sort through boxes with a lifetime of memories from multiple generations and branches of the family. The sorting of pictures and pieces of paper, old bank records, military orders and letters have elicited countless stories. Some I have heard, some I remember differently.
Apparently, sometimes I have completely made up stories to fit my memories, and more importantly my limited understanding of the circumstances.
Made Up Stories Carry More Weight in the Absence of Your Stories
That’s what children do. Innocent, cute story-telling in childhood becomes a well-honed skill by adulthood. We are all still telling stories.
Now we’re grown-ups with the kid still very much alive inside. My grown-up kid stories are how I make sense of what I don’t understand about my family.
Like the stories I spun on my three-block journey to school, the grown-up kid stories I weave now are not written down, recorded or videoed. There is no need; they are deeply ingrained in my heart and mind.
It is that same well-honed storytelling skill that creates a dilemma for parents as they wrestle with when and how to convey important information their grown-up kids need to know.
For instance, if you’ve not explained to your children what to expect when the will is read, then you and they will be victims of the story they’re spinning about how family resources will be distributed, shared or not shared.
If your family has a history of being philanthropic and you hope your kids will follow your example, but you’ve not talked about your charitable intent, then you probably can’t imagine the stories they will tell themselves. Their invented stories will be different from your stories if they first learn about your plan from the will and estate documents.
Help your grown-up kids prepare for their future. Be clear about the important stuff now. Tell them your stories so they don’t make up their own.
Here are some tips for preparing grown-up kids for their legacy.
- Share information about your plan so they are prepared. Grown-up kids especially need to be prepared for large or unexpected inheritances.
- Share your philanthropy plans. Don’t let them be surprised. Make sure they know why it’s important to you.
- Your attorney and estate planners can help you talk to your grown-up kids. Preparation for a future legacy should start sooner than later.
- Record a philanthropic impact statement. It can be a written document or a recorded interview.
The Philanthropic Impact Statement is the Cherry on Top
- Your story should include topics of history, motivation, and values.
- Describe your first significant gift.
- Explain why you’ve chosen to give in a certain way from your estate.
- Include the values you hope to pass on to future generations.
I have witnessed the power of sharing information as parents prepare their children for the legacy they hope to leave.
To successfully manage an inheritance, grown children need more than just financial knowledge. Rivers of emotion flow around the loss of a family member and reading of the will. Shared stories can prepare inheritors for that time.
Stories are powerful. Make sure they know your story and they won’t have to make one up when the time comes.
Would you like to learn more about how to share your stories with your children? Let’s talk about it.