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Many people will be traveling to spend time with their families this month. When you gather with your loved ones over the holidays, the last topic you are likely to be thinking about is legacy planning. But maybe it shouldn’t be. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss with your children the plans you have put in place in the event of your incapacity or death and the legacy you would like to leave for your family. If your parents are still living and have not offered this information to you, inquire as to the plans they have made and what is important for you to remember about their lives.

I have seen many clients hurriedly create their estate plan as they struggle to cope with an unanticipated accident or illness. It is a topic that we all would like to avoid, but dealing with it before a crisis will benefit you and your family members. To most boomers, estate planning is more than simply having the proper documents such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney in place. As Carl Rapp, CEO of Executor’s Resource, a leader in estate management and legacy planning states, “a legacy must be viewed in its broadest context; as a combination of values and accomplishments, wishes and instructions, together with heirlooms, memorabilia and finally, financial assets.”

We now have so many ways to keep in touch with far away relatives that it is easy to communicate only with short sound bites and lose the stories that have been passed down through the generations. Some of my fondest family memories are of my grandparents talking about all that they have seen and experienced and what their dreams are for future generations of our family. We need to use the technology we have been given to record these stories – through audio or videotape or by writing letters to future generations.

Make it a point for this year’s family gathering to be different. By discussing your history and hopes for the future, your family can share one of the greatest gifts this holiday season – a family legacy.

By Chris Carleton, CFP ®