In this holiday season, our thoughts turn to our family. The goal of this Family Legacy Planning blog is to help families pass down a meaningful legacy, a heritage that connects the generations to each other. My uncle, Rabbi Leonard Oberstein, said it so beautifully 14 years ago when he presided at our daughter Lizzy’s wedding: “You and Ira are another link in the unbroken chain of our family that goes all the way back to Mount Sinai.” Each generation is a link in an unbroken chain. We pass down not just our valuables, but more importantly, our values.
My mission is to help families achieve multi-generational success. How do you measure success? My esteemed colleague Ron Aucutt offers this profound measuring tool: “You have been a success if your grandchildren love their grandchildren.” Having spent last weekend celebrating Chanukah with our five grandkids at our niece Aimee’s wedding in New Orleans, Ron’s words speak loud and clear to me. Laurie and I are giving our all to pass down our values to those precious little ones. Chief among those values is to love and care for one another. We won’t be here physically to witness if our grandchildren love their grandchildren, but our aim is to be with them spiritually as they carry on a family legacy of love, l’dor vador, from generation to generation.
Speaking of Ron Aucutt, in the estate planning profession, there are a handful of lawyers widely acknowledged as rockstars by the legal community. Without question, Ron is one of these, greatly respected for his brilliant mind and technical proficiency. Last year, Aucutt delivered the Trachtman Lecture at the Annual Meeting of ACTEC (American College of Trusts & Estate Counsel) Fellows. Aucutt’s lecture “The Calling of the Counselor in Counseling Families” was recently published in the ACTEC Law Journal (Summer 2023 edition). Aucutt’s article is a wake-up call that the estate planning lawyer’s role has expanded beyond tax planning to counseling clients on passing down a meaningful legacy. It gratifies me that a man of Ron’s stature is embracing my mission.
Aucutt urges attorneys to become caring counselors. He issues a challenge with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Clients want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.” It’s time to address the “heart” side of estate planning, sometimes called the “soft” side (ironic, because as Aucutt points out, it’s really the “hard” part of planning).
In a very meaningful shout-out to my own passion for this cause, Aucutt continues: “Many of our colleagues are giving emphasis to those issues, and many share their insights with the rest of us through blogs, emails, and the like. A good example is Marvin Blum in Fort Worth. He publishes by email a ‘Family Legacy Planning series’ with titles like ‘What Are Your Rose and Thorn This Week?’ And ‘What Keeps This Family Connected? The Answer May Surprise You.’”
I’m deeply honored that my weekly blog got Aucutt’s attention. When I emailed Ron to thank him, he responded: “I definitely regard the emails you regularly send out as a good model and encouragement to our colleagues to ‘see the big picture.’ Keep it up. The responses I’ve received to my lecture have reassured me that this awareness is catching on.” That’s music to my ears.
In addressing how a lawyer can go about counseling with care, Aucutt suggests we encourage regular family meetings, with the cost funded by a long-term trust (what I call a FAST Trust). Aucutt advocates for family governance, mission statements, storytelling, traditions, and philanthropy. Finally, to help a family identify and transfer a legacy of values, Aucutt distills it down to these five recommendations:
- Spending time together,
- Shedding tears together,
- Sharing joys together,
- Serving others together, and
- Sustaining values together.
Aucutt offers tips on how to do each of these activities. Moreover, he stresses that this process applies to any family, no matter their net worth. “Shouldn’t any family, regardless of material resources, be encouraged to develop a legacy of family values?”
Thank you, Ron Aucutt, for advancing the cause of caring estate planning where we counsel clients to nourish a legacy of family values. I pledge to continue giving this initiative my best effort. And here’s praying that my grandchildren will love their grandchildren.
Marvin E. Blum
Marvin and Laurie Blum are working to pass down a legacy of love to these five precious grandkids, praying that the day comes when these grandchildren will love their grandchildren.