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Passing on Values as well as Valuables

The best advisors now say, wisely, that a good legacy plan passes on values as well as valuables. They may have you circle your values in a list of such or sort a deck of values cards.

But take a moment.  Step outside for a moment. Ask yourself how your own values were formed, how you inherited them? What role did a religious tradition, a literary or philosophical tradition, a school, a coach, or adult supervised after school activities play, along with the example and admonitions of those who loved you?

How, then, can your legacy planning keep the circulation of love, care, and concern going through the organizations that foster the values without which we would be no better than animals?


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The best advisors now say that the goal of legacy planning is not the transfer of assets per se, but a flourishing family. To these advisors and to those they serve, I would like to say: Yes, the goal of multigenerational family governance is a flourishing family. Yet, if  you were to list the top ten people or organizations who have helped you “flourish,” does any attorney, CPA, banker or wealth manager make the list? My list includes people who have loved me, or befriended me, and nonprofits like schools and church.

The things we do for money, and the things we do for love. Giving, then, is not peripheral to human flourishing. In so doing we participate in and keep alive the organizations that keep us alive, healthy, and morally sane. Hospitals, colleges, arts organizations, houses of worship, and so many more. If the legacy planner is to help families flourish she will have to pay close attention to the circulation of love as well as money. Money in that economy circulates as a gift. Nonprofits are the banks where debts of gratitude are repaid and reinvested in the give and take of care.