When people think about what kind of legacy they’ll leave after they die, they usually think about financial legacies—property, a family business or trust funds. They think about leaving an estate.
Most people aren’t thinking about the other legacies they will leave.
For example, everyone leaves a philosophical legacy of one kind or another. A philosophical legacy is the imprint their values have made on their children and grandchildren, and on anyone whose lives they’ve touched. The values passed down along with a financial legacy help govern what the family does with the money. Your heirs will still think about how you would want the financial legacy to be managed.
When a family business is passed down, the values that were passed down along with the business will still be applied to decisions even after the founder is gone. The values-based family culture is the legacy you’re leaving along with your business.
In addition to financial and philosophical legacies, you will also leave an emotional legacy when you’re gone. You’re creating an emotional legacy right now in the relationships you have with other people. Those relationships will be passed down to your children. If you have a really good relationship with all your siblings, chances are your children will be close to their siblings, as well their cousins. The next generation naturally models their own relationships after the older generation’s family relationships.
A lot of successful businesspeople are masters at leaving financial legacies, but they don’t see the value or impact in the emotional legacy they’re leaving. They’re not managing their relationships or acting as stewards of family in the same way they are acting as stewards of their financial legacy or even their values.
If you have a strained relationship with your in-laws, or a strained relationship with your sister’s husband, and that may divide those two branches of the family for generations to come. Those relationships get passed down in a negative way just as they do in a positive way.
There are many components to legacy. If you just think about leaving a large financial legacy or a good business culture, you can really fall short in terms of your responsibility to your family. Your actions now will help future generations to maximize and make the best use of the financial and philosophical legacies you’re leaving them. Your legacy will enrich your family much more if you take great care with your personal relationships and treat them as an important part of your legacy.