Broker Check


It was a typical client meeting with the Estate Planning attorney. The clients, let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith - ages 83 and 81- were to update their estate planning and brief their 2 adult children about what they had done. As the meeting progressed, I indicated to them the need for Mr. and Mrs. Smith to discuss not only the property issues but also other issues that might be important to them. The emotional and intangible issues were sometimes more important than the tangible ones. It was then that Mr. Smith started talking about his precious possession-- a violin that his father had given him when he was just 10. As a young boy, he would take it wherever he went and play it to any willing audience! He told us that one day he misplaced the violin. He and his father had searched the entire town- a small town in the Midwest- for the violin. After many days, they had located it at a local store (somebody who had found it had brought it in) and the owner was kind enough to give it back to him. Since then he had kept this violin in safe place and it was something he treasured. While Mr. Smith was telling us this story in intimate detail, Mrs. Smith’s and the daughters’ eyes welled up. It was probably the first time that Mr. Smith had ever talked to his children about his violin and his relationship with his dad. Truly, it was a very emotional moment for everyone in the room!

We all understand the importance of Estate Planning. Many of us think of estate planning as a complicated process, a process just for the wealthy. But for many people it does not have to be complicated nor is it just for the wealthy. The basic estate planning consists of a ‘will’ or ‘living trust’, trusts for children (even adult children), powers of attorney for health and financial matters, a ‘living will’ also called a ‘directive to physicians’ and a HIPAA document. In the event of death or disability, while the benefit of estate planning is obvious, the consequence of not doing estate planning can be severe, expensive and time consuming!

While basic estate planning is important, this article I feel is addressing a more important issue, one’s legacy. Legacy means more than money or assets that one transfers to one’s heirs. The definition of legacy is ‘something transmitted or received from an ancestor’. Allianz Life Insurance Company made a fascinating study called the “American Legacies” study of baby boomers and seniors. This study highlighted what they termed the Legacy Gap. The Legacy Gap occurs due to a combination of both a generation gap and a communication gap. Interestingly, the findings focused on the issues most important to seniors and their heirs (baby boomers). The study found some key differences between what was important to seniors and what was important to boomers, what seniors think and what boomers think with regard to estate planning. The seniors focused on the orderly transfer of material assets. For the boomers, even while material assets were important to them, they thought that the ‘intangibles’ or the ‘emotional’ were as important to them. What are these ‘intangibles’ or the ‘emotional’ that were important to the heirs? Quoting from the Allianz American Legacies Study, these were the broad categories:

  1. Family Traditions and History, Ancestral Stories, Ethics, Moral Values, Faith and Religion
  2. Personal Belongings and Possessions of Emotional Value (a grandfather clock, perhaps a violin or a family album, writings, paintings, etc)
  3. Specific Instructions and wishes or bequests to be fulfilled
  4. Financial or Material Assets
  5. Communication of the above to the heirs was very important

It is estimated there are over six billion people inhabiting this earth. Humans have a lot in common with each other in terms of basic human values. And still it is amazing that each person is unique and different. Each person is conditioned by his or her environment, relationships, upbringing, wealth or poverty and a host of factors. No two people are alike in terms of height, color, size, shape, experiences and thinking. Therefore each of us has a unique and interesting story to tell, a story of personal trials and tribulations, successes and failures! Many of us feel that we are unimportant to the world and our stories to be absolutely uninteresting as well. But one thing is true, your life story is important to your loved ones. After all, your life may be stranger than fiction. They want to know how we got here and how we got so far! Your life story may be the most important legacy you are leaving to your children, grandchildren or to your other family members! After much procrastination and constant encouragement from family, I just started writing mine. Are you going to write your life story for your children and grand children?

Jay Kabad, CFP®, is President of Jaykay Wealth Advisors, Inc, a Houston-based wealth management firm. He received his Graduate degree from IIT Madras and an MBA from University of Pittsburgh, PA in 1980 and has been in business for 27 years. He is a Financial Advisor with LPL Financial and can be contacted at 713-780-4575. Securities and investment advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only