Family Legacies beyond Finances & Legalities

By Zita Nikoletta Verbényi

What’s in a Family Legacy?

Multigenerational family legacies are highly complex and multifaceted. Legacies do not only hold a precious meaning for families, pointing above and beyond finances, taxes, and the legalities, in many cases, beyond the family firm, or any other entity. Family legacies are also powerful family engagement, alignment, and inspirational tools. If leveraged well, a family’s legacy acts, especially due to its educational quality, as the family’s complexity premium, and competitive advantage.

Family members can revisit their ancestors’ various sharp decisions, the reasoning, decision-making mechanisms, and the contexts behind these, suggesting how they lead the family during challenging times, became more resilient, and created further value and impact on many levels. Each family member is a part of the dialectical complex co-creation activities spanning through decades or even centuries during the different family eras, familyisms. As it’s a dynamic phenomenon, families can, at any time, also reconnect with and benefit from their invaluable resources. Their intertwined capitals; cultural, social, family, emotional, intellectual, talent, network, natural, patient capital, etc., as well as the family’s multigenerational collective intelligence.

Legacy-Based Family Alignment Helping Practitioners

Practitioners can bring the most value to family clients and help them create and build their legacies further when the family members already hold a shared understanding and distributed consensus on where they are on their journey, what they wish to achieve, how, where, and with whom. In these cases, practitioners can focus on connecting the various interest points and opportunities available, and elaborating on why and how their clients would benefit from the proposed purposeful plans. Instead of any back-and-forth conversations, and waiting, or nudging, for an alignment amongst the family members.

As much as practitioners hold a more holistic conversation about the key drivers and values behind their clients’ aspirations, they have limited time and capacity to cover the multi-layered facets, and work with, and on, the very foundational aspects that bond families together. E.g., a succession is not only passing on the wealth, any family entities, values, and historical background to the next generation, it’s a transfer of knowledge, networks, and the whole of the family legacy.

Re-calibrating Family Legacies

Family legacies have been undervalued, as a family legacy is probably a multigenerational family’s most valuableasset. Therefore, legacy mapping and a transformative curation is crucial for families to engage in globally, and it’s a project that also complements and enhances the complex work of practitioners working with their family clients. An innovative legacy curation includes mappingand synthesising the fascinating intertwined legacy threads, all the key capitals, as well as the overarching stories, memories, depicting a family’s fabric that can be understood, appreciated, learned from, and leveragedby the family members, any additional shareholders, employees, and community in different ways. Such a legacy project also brings the family together and propels their much-needed alignment.

However, we recognise the need to re-calibrate narratives about legacy curations as well as re-energising family legacies globally.

In the past, legacies were curated by historiansand archivistscovering only the historical, social, and businessaspects of a multigenerational family or individual, depicting merely a fragmentedimage of their complex, multi-layered legacy, and the invaluable impactit represents to them and their community.

In addition, mostly tucked away in archives, sitting on shelves, these legacy collections did not (and could not) engageand inspirethe current and especially the upcominggenerations, who connect with heritagevery differently. They also lacked the familyand culturalstories, the family members’ voices, as well as other important aspects that also constituted a family’s legacy.

Inhabiting Family Legacies

Legacies are harbouring a wealthof treasures, and should a family already have an archive or museum, re-connecting with the complex web of their family legacy, understanding themultitude of connection points, as well as re-energising the narrative constellations, messages from family members, and their legacy objects helps families immensely with their anchoring and overall engagement.

Should a multigenerational family reach 4+ generations without collecting, mapping, understanding, interpreting, and leveraging their legacy, they can commence their journey with making sense, forming meaning, and receive inspiration from the findings, and use their legacy as a powerful engagement and alignment tool for the family, their employees, and community.

Family legacies are not only to be safeguarded and preserved, it’s about bringing them to current relevance and keeping them alive. Such legacy projects also help families to hold an effective historical consciousness, to enlarge their horizon of their thoughts, and connect their individual horizon with the collective family horizon, the co-constructed symbol system that serves as their ultimate anchoring.

Collaboration around Legacies

Whilst practitioners are guiding families to navigate the complexities of their clients’ multitude of immediate and long-term intentions and goals, a legacy aesthete’s role can inform, complement, and enrich their legacy work around the planning, structuring, and other aspects. Assessing, mapping, curating, and helping families understand and leverage their complex legacy for generations serves as the very foundation, and true root system for any family, and also the building blocks and pillars for any practitioner’s work.

About the Author: Zita Nikoletta Verbényi is the Founder & Legacy Aesthete at The Legacy Atelier, a PhD Candidate in Family Legacy Interpretations, and Head of Family Offices at Stanton Chase.


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