Live a Legacy for Your Grandchildren; Then Leave One for Them

Q. The discussion of leaving a legacy recently came up in conversation among our friends and family. It seems our friends are way ahead of us on what they will leave future generations and how they hope to instill values in their grandchildren. My husband and I aren’t getting any younger, and with six grandchildren, it’s time to focus on our role as grandparents who hope to be a good influence in their lives, and who hope to leave them with an understanding of our beliefs and values. What are some suggestions that you give to clients who are interested in living a legacy, and then leaving one to future generations?

A. Many families who come into our office to do estate planning have the desire to not only plan for, but to leave a legacy for future generations. How that legacy is defined changes from one person to the next, but a common misconception is often that legacy planning or “leaving a legacy” can’t start until after death.

Living a legacy starts while we are still alive. A legacy is when the next generation models their lives and judges their achievements by you. What many people don’t realize is that living your legacy is just as important as leaving a legacy.

Often, when we think of legacy, we think of things–material possessions. But, your legacy isn’t always about things. Usually, it’s about who you are and how you touch people’s lives.

What Children Can Receive from Their Relationships with Grandparents

For both the grandparent and grandchild, the biggest gift of this all-important bond is the endless supply of love, acceptance, patience, and unwavering support that grandparents uniquely have to offer. As grandparents, we have many gifts to share, and we can be a positive influence in many ways. Here are some of the roles grandparents play along with tips on how they can help you live your legacy:

Grandparents as Role Models

Grandchildren often look up to their grandparents as worthy models for how to live life. A role model represents someone others admire as an example of appropriate values, attitudes, and behaviors. Your good example will instill positive values for your grandchildren to emulate.

Your actions speak volumes about:

• What’s right and what’s wrong;
• What is important and what is not.

Grandparents as Teachers

One of the greatest gifts that grandparents have to give is their time—time that presents the opportunity to pass on their knowledge, wisdom, and life experience as well as practical skills.

Grandparents as Historians

Grandparents hold the key to the family’s history, and can offer grandchildren insight into their heritage that provides a sense of belonging.

• Tell stories about yourself, relatives, events, and family traditions;
• Share pictures, old family recipes, and newspaper clips;
• Take a family history trip;
• Look through family albums and create a family tree with pictures.

Grandparents as Spiritual Guides

Teach your grandchildren to appreciate the qualities of compassion, tolerance, kindness, gentleness, and love, and demonstrate these qualities in your own action and speech.

• Spend time together in nature;
• Engage in charitable activities together;
• Listen to your grandchildren’s ideas about the meaning of life, and share your own beliefs.

Grandparents as Nurturers

Grandparents help grandchildren feel loved and secure, which can be especially beneficial in times of difficulty or stress. Your total acceptance and loving support are gifts your grandchildren will cherish always and remember fondly.

• Keep an open door
• Welcome their confidences
• Listen nonjudgmentally

Grandparents as Mentors

As grandparents, we can encourage in our grandchildren a sense of self-worth that gives them a strong start and helps them rise to life’s challenges.

• Offer your encouragement;
• Believe in their dreams;
• Nurture their strengths.

Grandparents as Playmates

Grandparents can be a friend and fun-loving playmate in the lives of their grandchildren—and their grandchildren will love and remember them for it! Here are some ideas to connecting with grandkids at any age:

• Take the time to engage in imaginative play;
• Go to the park or the pool or movies;
• Enjoy the exuberant energy of your grandchildren, whatever they may be up to.

Grandparents as Caregivers

For some grandparents, caregiving is a full-time job, but it’s more common for grandparents to offer care sporadically—such as when the parents have a night out or the usual childcare is unavailable. Caregiving = opportunity to love, teach, talk and inspire.

Grandparents as Students

While there is much you have to offer your grandchildren, grandparenting presents a learning opportunity for you, too. Pay attention to pearls of wisdom your grandchildren have to share!

Talk to the Parents About Their Ideas for Your Role, and Share Yours with Them

As grandparents, always remember that the parents are in charge. You may have raised your own children differently, but unless you become the primary caregiver, raising your grandchildren is the parents’ job, not yours. Abide by the rules and routines they establish for their children. Refrain from offering advice unless requested, and even then, do so with caution. Unsolicited advice can lead to family conflict that can interfere with your relationship with the parents and therefore your grandchildren.

Legacy Planning for Future Generations

Your Legacy Story Imparts Life’s Lessons

Just as a Last Will and Testament allows you to leave behind your valuables, your Legacy Story allows you to leave behind your values. A Legacy Story is a way to document and share (in writing or via an audio or video recording) your values, your spiritual beliefs, and your “life’s lessons,” and is a great way to convey these things to grandchildren when you are no longer around. Your Legacy Story is a personal statement you make about yourself — your hopes, your dreams, your joys, your regrets. It may contain professions of love and forgiveness for loved ones in your life. Click here to create your own Legacy Story at no charge.

Share Your Legacy—A No-Cost Service for Our Clients

In connection with creating your Revocable Living Trust and other Estate Planning documents, the Farr Law Firm can help you leave your loved ones with your own Legacy Story. If you are a current or former client of the Farr Law Firm, or even just a reader of our blog or newsletter, and would to create your own Legacy Story, click here to create your own legacy story at no charge. In addition, for more details about new Legacy Stories features, read Magic’s Critter Corner article. If you are not yet a client of our firm, please contact us to set up an appointment for an initial consultation:

Legacy Planning Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Legacy Planning Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Legacy Planning Rockville: 301-519-8041
Legacy Planning DC: 202-587-2797

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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