Why a financial legacy is so much more than numbers on a balance sheet

There are few stories that resonate quite so strong as that of a family-run business that has stood the test of time and passed through the generations.

We can all think to nostalgic adverts featuring, for example, a neighbourhood baker that started with one individual generations ago which continues now – larger but with the same family vision and values; it’s a very powerful message.

Equally, there’s something immensely satisfying and heart-warming about hearing of successful individuals who attribute that success to significant people in their lives who, in turn, gained their successes in the same way.

What’s interesting with these types of stories is that the financial element is often a secondary angle. What is almost always more prominent is the notion of values, legacy, heritage…

Building a family legacy isn’t always about business, just as it is not always about money.

When estates pass on to family members, usually after a loved one has passed, our first thoughts are often not about the financial element but the memories, traditions, people and moments in time that are embedded into the fabric of one’s estate.

Such elements can’t be found in legal documents or balance sheets – they’re found in the legacies that individuals and families create. In some respects, we’re all custodians of heritage and just as individuals inherit wealth and then pass this on, this is also the case when it comes to heritage.

And this thinking is front and centre at Wills & Trusts. We believe so strongly in this that we actively encourage our clients to put together a Life Book consisting of family memories, anecdotes and stories – ensuring the values built up over generations will remain strong both now and into the future.

We don’t see just balance sheets, we see a life’s work and a life’s memories. It’s not just about providing our clients with the tools to create a strong financial legacy – it’s about family legacy too.

In a business sense, the power and importance of shared ideology and of understanding heritage is often translated into tangibly positive financial results – and this is transferrable to individuals and their family lives too.

In fact, statistics from the Institute for Family Business suggest that two-thirds of UK businesses are family owned (4.8 million in total) generating over a quarter of UK GDP.

Interestingly, they attribute the following as a major contributing factor to the success of family-run businesses: “Strong values run through family businesses. Owners have the opportunity to teach and pass along their business and personal values to the next generation of family managers and owners. Family members take pride in upholding these family values and build them into their day-to-day work and personal activities.”

So what are three core advantages from a financial perspective of fostering a strong sense of family heritage and legacy?

More value than just money

If you are planning to leave a financial legacy to someone close to you, ensuring there is a strong story behind it underpinned by values and heritage means those in receipt of assets will have a greater understanding of that asset and everything that went in to creating it.

Greater sense of responsibility

A financial legacy may span generations. If a recipient understands the backstory and is in sync with the traditions, values and heritage attached to it, there will inevitably be a strong sense of responsibility to that legacy, which can then in turn be passed on; keeping that legacy alive in every sense of the word.

A sense of continuation

If a legacy is left in the expectation that it will be maintained – such as the passing of a property which goes back through the generations or, likewise, a business, or even a sum of money which has passed through more than one generation; a feeling of heritage will help create that natural continuation of the legacy, even if the primary legacy holder is no longer there.

Paula O'Reilly

December 13, 2020