Whether you run a business or just care deeply about your family, you’ve developed a strong moral code. This wisdom was hard-won. You’d like to pass it on to the people you care about most, so that they won’t have to go through similar struggles. But which values are truly core to you?
Good Values Versus Inviolate Values
If you wrote down all your guiding principles, such a list would be extensive. Maybe you’d start from the Boy Scouts’ credo— to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent—and build from there. But an oversized list becomes meaningless. What’s mission critical to you?
Business author, Jim Collins, defines truly core values as ones that are timeless and unchanging and, critically, “so fundamental that you would hold them regardless of whether or not they are rewarded.”
Building on Collins work, best selling author and entrepreneur Kevin Daum created a template for defining these. Daum argues that most people “don’t really know [their core values] until [they] have articulated them clearly in writing and tested them through daily decision-making.”
Here’s his five-step process:
1. Think through and describe: your three greatest accomplishments; three greatest moments of efficiency; and common rules or themes of success.
2. Think through and describe: your three greatest failures; three greatest moments of inefficiency; and common rules or themes of failure.
3. Write down three or four brief sentences of advice you would give to yourself based on what you wrote in steps 1 and 2.
4. Boil down your advice to a few words.
5. Test the value. Think of a situation where following your core value hurts you rather than helps you. If you can’t identify a legitimate case where the value steers you wrong, you probably have a good core value.
Now What? Operationalizing Your Values
Practically speaking, how to you “pass them on” or institutionalize them? The right estate planning strategies can be hugely helpful. For instance, let’s say frugality or “living within one’s means” is core to you. You want to make sure this idea guides your children and grandchildren even when you’re no longer around. Setting up certain types of trusts can prevent your children (and/or grandchildren) from overspending or otherwise squandering the assets you leave them.
Our experienced Arkansas estate planning attorneys can help you protect your legacy. Get in touch for a consultation to get the clarity you need. Call 501-221-7776