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January 28, 2014 Newsletter Archive

A Values-Based Approach to Leaving a Legacy

I have been reading a lot - I always read a lot - but I've been reading a lot on estate planning and what people should be aware of, perils, pitfalls, and good things to do to try to prevent issues. One item that arises time and again, and which is truly close to my heart, is a values based approach to planning. In fact, the other day I read that in one recent survey "values and life lessons" was the number one answer when people over 45 were asked, "What's most important to pass on to the next generation?"

To further increase my knowledge in values based planning, I have read Rachel Freed's book on life legacies and countless articles, and I have gained a better understanding on the subject. Yet, in my opinion, the biggest hang up that remains is that we cannot simply begin to impart our values to our children, spouses, other family members and friends at the time of our deaths, or even close to death. The truth is we must live our values every day.

If you are a person whose objective has been to skirt Uncle Sam's tax machine all your adult life, your spouse and children probably have some idea about that. If you have addictions to substances, gambling, porn or shopping, your kids have probably noticed. If you've been dogmatic, intransigent, angry, hard to talk to as a spouse or parent, yeah, they've noticed that too. So it's a little disingenuous to come to this values based planning really late in the game without coming across in an unauthentic light.

What can you do? Fortunately, most of us actually do not fit into the extremes I laid out above. We are human, we make mistakes, we acknowledge them and we know if today has not been great, tomorrow will be better. We pass this value on to our children too. I recommend checking into our own values this minute. How do you do this? Ask yourself what you believe in and what is really important to you? Is it family, friends, and other support systems? If so, why? What do you value from these relationships? Keep digging. You can ask the same questions about how you feel about death and dying, what you wish your experience to be, what your thoughts are about our medical system (hospital, hospice, home). Ask about your spirituality. Is this important to you, or not? How about education and lifelong learning, the environment, charitable giving?

I know that you can answer these questions and when you do and you examine your values you can then begin to bring them into your everyday life experiences. Now your spouse and children will be able to observe as you model that your charitable giving, and you'll be able to give a very real answer when they ask you about your recent volunteer work, and when you provide life gifts, or plan for your children and grandchildren's educations, it won't necessarily come as a shock to them. When your family and friends observe you, when you are a model of the values that make you tick, then values based estate planning becomes second nature. What's more, when you impart your values early while your children are younger, your children will learn to live those values too. You want to grow healthy kids, at the very least, model values that promote what you consider healthy outcomes. I am not suggesting that other elements do not factor in and that parenting boils down to this. However, I do believe that our children mirror that which we provide them, and modeling positive values probably will not hurt, and will possibly help them.

Where do estate planning attorneys fit into this discussion? When we begin conversations with you, we ask you directly on our questionnaires and during our meetings with you about your values. When we draft your documents, your unique values should guide the way, whether in your will and trust or your financial or health care powers of attorney, and even extending to specialized memos or legacy letters and ethical wills you leave for your family members, either during your life, or after your death. In our experience, there is no doubt that addressing your values sooner rather than later in life facilitates the planning process, and that addressing your values in the estate planning process leads to a meaningful legacy.

If you wish to speak to us about passing down more than just your assets to your beneficiaries, please call us at

(603) 643-6072 or (802) 457-9492

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Read more about a values-based approach:


4 Smart Ways to Leave a Legacy

Focus on Passing Down Your Values, Not Money


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Melendy Moritz PLLC is a client centered boutique firm. We focus on your unique needs by providing the individualized legal counseling and advising tailored to your specific situation.

We concentrate on the planning that matters to you.
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