In last week’s Family Legacy Planning email, I shared how a recent speech I gave lead to improvements to The Blum Firm’s Red File Checklist. The Red File contains important information to pass down to your family, information that’s not in your estate planning documents (think: passwords, key contacts, caregiving wishes; but also think: lessons learned, goals for your family, (and as discussed last week) even plans for your funeral). Another idea hit me during that speech: use the Red File to write down information about your ancestors and family stories, especially stories of resilience when ancestors overcame obstacles.
Why is it important to preserve family heritage? Research shows that heirs who know more about their ancestors (names, hometowns, what they were like and what they did) actually have higher self-esteem. It is also well-established that knowing stories of resilience helps heirs remain strong and confident when adversity strikes (and that’s WHEN, not IF). Heirs who know they descend from a line of survivors are more equipped to deal with life’s struggles.
A great activity for a family meeting is for everyone to share memories of family stories. It’s a chance for everyone to participate.
As an example, please allow me to share a Blum heritage story. All four of my grandparents barely escaped the Holocaust, making it to America alive but penniless, knowing not a word of English. My grandfather used to say he left behind all his possessions except the knowledge in his head, leading to his motto: “What you put into your head, no one can ever take away from you.” From that heritage, I was raised with two overriding values: (1) education and (2) hard work. Those values made me who I am today. So when Laurie and I had a still-born baby on February 11, 1982, we knew we had the strength to survive—and when Adam was born exactly one year later on February 11, 1983, our faith was rewarded. When a tornado destroyed my law office in 2000, I also knew I came from survivors and could rebuild my law practice. When my brother Irwin died at age 65 of pancreatic cancer, I was heartbroken but knew we would carry on his legacy.
We all have stories of ancestors overcoming hardship, and we can all draw strength from those stories. Our heirs can also draw strength from those stories. Financial assets are only part of an inheritance. Let’s write down those stories and pass down that inheritance too.
Marvin E. Blum
Four Generations of Marvin Blum’s Family Heritage: (from left) Marvin’s mother Elsie Blum, his great grandfather Rabbi Eliezer Weinstock (“Zaidy”), his brother Irwin Blum, and his grandmother Pauline Oberstein. Zaidy’s left eye was poked out in a Russian uprising against Jews.