When it comes to leaving an inheritance for our children, many parents automatically think of leaving cash, properties and life insurance proceeds behind. But for kids who find themselves devastated after the loss of a parent, it’s often intangible assets that carry the most value and provide deep comfort during such a difficult time.
These days, the phrase “intangible asset” seems to have multiple meanings. In the estate planning world, attorneys refer to intangible assets as memories and mementos that are left behind for loved ones. These are things that extend beyond money and material things in order to share your story and your family history. Your will and trust attorney can incorporate such assets into your estate plan for the benefit of your family after you are gone.
What kinds of things can be included in your intangible legacy? Consider the following:
- Handwritten letters to individual friends and family members that express your feeling for them
- A written family history and important genealogies
- A DVD recording of you sharing memories, encouraging your loved ones or telling stories of your childhood
- Letters or recordings to be delivered at predetermined times, such as birthdays, wedding days, upon the birth of a child, etc.
The Value of Intangible Assets
An estate planning lawyer can’t really place a monetary value on these types of intangible assets and the legacy they leave behind (although they should definitely be listed among the assets of an estate). It’s just not possible to put a price on family history or your ability to continue to have an influence on your children and grandchildren after you are no longer able to be with them physically.
Creating these letters and recordings gives you an ongoing opportunity to offer your support, to share your pride, and to instill your values on those whom you love the most. It may also help to ease the grief of those loved ones, as they still feel your guidance and encouragement in their lives. You can share with them your own hopes and dreams for their futures or even just offer an annual birthday greeting. Some parents or grandparents have even recorded themselves reading bedtime stories in order to remain a part of their children’s upbringing.
Related to this intangible legacy is the idea of a video will. Generally speaking, a will in <insert city> must be written down, not to mention signed and witnessed. Some people choose to also create a video will, usually just of the testator reading the will, in order to show that he or she was competent at the time that the will was created in order to avoid challenges later.
Keep in mind, though, that the video should be made in addition to the written will, not as a substitute. Because the video will is not sufficient in and of itself, the best approach is to work with an estate planning lawyer to draft a legal document before committing it to video.
Steven Greenwood, Esq.