shutterstock_269911424.jpgWhat matters most to you?

It's a question everyone seems to wrestle with at one time or another, and the answer often depends on the stage in life in which you find yourself.

In your 20's, landing a job and finding love are likely answers. In your 30's and 40's it's all about building a career and caring for your kids. The 50's are typically a time when you start dreaming about soon-to-be days spent doing whatever you want.

After that, you'll likely start thinking about how you can create a brighter future for your children, your grandchildren and family members for generations to come.

Surprisingly, though, that doesn't only include passing on your assets.

Looking beyond financial planning

Sure, financial planning is important, but if you're like most matriarchs or patriarchs, you also care deeply about character, values, ideals and aspirations. You define wealth more broadly than financial terms, and you want future generations of your family to carry on the traditions that were passed on to you.

These are the characteristics and traits that have made you who you are, made you successful. They were instilled in you by people you love, and now it is your job to instill them in people who love you.

Your wealth will be passed along, but how can you ensure that the other, less tangible family assets will remain after you are gone?

It starts by looking to the past.

Looking to the past to create a brighter future

The first step toward ensuring that the things that matter most to you are passed along to future generations is identifying what matters--and that starts with taking a look at your life.

Start by making a list of your values.

It could include faith, honor, love, philanthropy, family unity, compassion and forgiveness. Whatever you value, write it down.

Next, try to determine who instilled these values in you. Who was it that taught you the importance of all that you hold dear? Understanding the circumstances under which you learned to live your values will help you determine how to pass them along to future generations.

Your list doesn't have to be complicated. Even a few simple words scribbled on a piece of paper can have a long-lasting impact. Think about the Declaration of Independence, the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights.

They have provided the road map for generations of people who believed in something bigger than themselves--something bigger than fame and fortune.

Your list can do the same for your family's future.

How heritage planning protects your "wealth"

If you are like most people, your financial planning involves wills and trusts and other traditional tools people use to pass on their financial assets.

But remember that your definition of wealth goes well beyond finances.

You define wealth both financially and by the values you've itemized on your list. So instead of working with a financial planner who specializes in transferring financial wealth to your heirs, you are going to want to work with someone who understands and practices heritage planning.

Heritage planning accounts for your financial assets--money, property, businesses, etc.--but also includes the things that matter most to you, the things you were taught to value that go beyond money.

It ensures that both your financial wealth and your family wealth will be passed on, protected and preserved for generations to come by incorporating communication, trust, strong family structures, prosperity economics, family leadership and unity into the planning process.

And at the end of the day, you can be be sure that your family will share your values and prosperity.

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