August 3, 2012   Inheritance

Message In A Bottle: Just How Important is Your "Legacy" to Your Kids?

By Martha J. Hartney, Esq.
Recently I reorganized my kitchen, emptying a series of about 20 bottles filled with corks to make better use of the counter space they occupied. These bottles filled with corks marked every bottle of wine opened in my home since I became a single woman in 2006. Okay, lest you think me a lush, the bottles were, every one of them, opened in the company of friends and family. I collected each one as a remembrance that my life is still abundant, still full of love and laughter and company and joy, despite the fact that I left a very financially secure marriage. Every time I saw the corks, their numbers growing each week because I have a very open door home, I smiled in the remembrance of my chosen, and ever-growing family. They made me feel like a very wealthy woman indeed.

Toward the bottom of the last bottle I was emptying, I spotted a cork that was different than all the rest. It had a black plastic top. I read the lettering, “McCallum” and instantly remembered why I’d saved that one particular cork. It was the cork from the bottle of McCallum my father had a drink from on his final visit to my home, just weeks before he died. I’d kept first the actual McCallum bottle, then parted with the bottle and kept the cork.

inheritance for kidsA cork. To remember my father by.


Every day I work with moms and dads to help them make sure their affairs are very well in order if something happens to them. This work, the end product, releases parents from a least a couple of the worries that arrive the moment a child arrives on the planet. When parents complete their planning (it’s never actually finally complete but that’s another post), they always remark that they feel so much better knowing it’s done. They sleep better, feel stronger and more grown up. Because they’ve passed through a door that few parents do—and that’s taking control of everything in their power to control—even unto death.

The very best part of this work, though, is inviting parents to create an inheritance that lasts far longer and is more powerful than money. When I describe what we’ll do to create that inheritance—record their life and love story on digital media and include that as part of their plan—someone always cries, recognizing the deeper truth that no amount of money can replace a lost parent. Nothing. The best we can do, and least we should try to do, is capture the memory of that parent so that the child can heal, can remember, can proceed through life knowing the most important thing a child can know—that they are and have always been loved.

If you’re tempted to think, “Oh my kids don’t care about that. They wouldn’t need to see me to get over it. They’d heal,” just remember one particular attorney who kept a cork to remember her father.


Give them more than a cork. Give them you. Your estate planning attorney can help.

If you are not currently working with an estate planning attorney, use the “Find an Estate Planner” search feature on this website to locate an attorney in your area.
 
About the Author
Martha HartneyMartha’s practice serves families with children and non-traditional families because she is committed to helping parents bring their greatest gifts into parenting fearlessly and with joy. She approaches legal planning for parents as part of the parenting journey and as an expression of good stewardship to ensure that our children are cared for the way we want them to be should the unthinkable happen and have resources and memories to serve their greatest growth and contribution to the world.
 
Martha graduated from the University of Denver while being a full time mother of two sons. She focused her studies on family, juvenile, and estate law and served in the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office; Larimer County Domestic Courts; and the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. Martha has served as a pro bono guardian ad litem representing abused and delinquent children. After law school, she was certified as a Child & Family Investigator through the Colorado Bar Association. She has also supported new mothers as a La Leche League Leader and been an advocate of attachment parenting and natural parenting.
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