Among my most treasured gifts are letters written to me by my father. He was one of my heroes. These letters include words of gratitude for me, my husband and our children…loving memories of my birth, my childhood and my adult years…and a sense of contentment with life. Furthermore, they reveal his greatness as a gentle, strong man with deep faith, humility, and integrity.

When I hold these handwritten letters and read his familiar handwriting, I receive strength and hope. I feel grounded. These letters are worth more to me than financial wealth. They are priceless.

I was reminded of the impact of my Dad’s letters at our Family Business Forum on “Parenting, Wealth & Legacy” last month. The presenter is a recovering lawyer from Denver, Colorado, John A. Warnick. John A. has assisted hundreds of families in developing trusts, wills and other legal documents used in the transfer of wealth to the next generation. An attorney “with a large heart,” John A. noted the legal process and outcome tend to feel sterile and cold. The positive intent behind the gifting process can get lost in the legalese.

John A. shared with us another way. He engaged us in powerful, emotional stories of “Purposeful Giving” and how we could integrate our “heart” and “soul” in the documents. We heard how both the givers and the receivers were impacted…in the short-term and the long-term.

Don’t Wait

I was struck by the emotion I observed on people’s faces as they worked through John A.’s exercises…and my own emotional response. It was heart work, and it was hard work. But time well spent. This work was a healthy reminder to articulate these feelings, stories and memories NOW…and not wait until we are no longer physically present to pass them on to our children.

In my experience guiding legacy families, sometimes the gift or transfer of wealth overshadows family love and care. A financial gift may feel more like a “tax efficient move” or like a burden. It may be confusing or overwhelming for both the giver and the receiver.

-What do you want to communicate to your children today about what they mean to you?
-What is the purpose behind your gifts?

I invite you to share your story of a gift you received that was better than money.

To learn more, visit John A. Warnick’s work at Purposeful Planning Institute or read his Seedlings blog.

Sally Derstine

Managing Partner, Senior Family Business Advisor

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