4 actions for shaping a multigenerational legacy

Adult son with his arm around his father walking outside.

Get help to build a lasting family legacy across multiple generations.

Family legacy goes beyond financial assets and includes intangibles like values and beliefs that can impact attitudes and relationships for years to come. We’ve seen that families who intentionally foster the nonfinancial aspects of legacy tend to be better positioned to maintain financial capital through subsequent generations.

Mariana Martinez, senior family dynamics consultant for Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management, understands the importance of human capital — skills, knowledge, and experience — when it comes to fostering a lasting family legacy. At the same time, empowering rising generations can prove challenging for some families.

Building a legacy that spans generations is a team effort,” says Martinez. “It’s a task for all family members, not just the older generation.

“Building a legacy that spans generations is a team effort,” says Martinez. “It’s a task for all family members, not just the older generation.”

Here, Martinez shares the crucial actions — centered around communication and partnership — that a family should consider when setting out to build a legacy.

Involve future generations early

Preparing rising generations to be stewards of the family legacy starts by sharing what that legacy means to you — and then listening to how they respond and listening to their ideas. To start the conversation, talk with your children regularly about family values, charitable giving, and the type of social impact you hope to make. According to Martinez, “Revealing your attitudes around wealth can inform future inheritance conversations and may be extremely valuable to younger generations when it comes to their own financial decision-making.”

Then, ask them to share what matters to them and work to find common ground. Articulating a shared vision and mission for the family helps foster a sense of commitment and responsibility among its members.

Set communication guidelines

Conversations about family legacy should be rooted in honesty, transparency, and respect. Stress the importance of maintaining a safe space for family members to express their thoughts and concerns. This includes feeling empowered to address financial decisions, expectations, and potential challenges openly.

Martinez shares the story of one client who started involving their children in conversations about estate planning. “They listened to each other’s perspectives, desires, and expectations,” she says. “Collectively — and creatively — they explored options, discussed the implications for each family branch, and discovered alternatives that none of them, including the family members who initiated the discussion, had considered before.”

Develop the talents of future generations

Every member of the family has their own interests and ambitions, so try to gain insight into each of their lives and learn what motivates them. Help develop any emerging talents you discover and work to uncover opportunities for them to gain the requisite skills to advance their personal and collective interests.

In doing so, you may notice new leadership potential for managing family wealth in the future. Enabling this kind of development can help future generations bring fresh ideas to the table while also helping ensure a smooth transition of financial and familial responsibilities.

Create a structure that works for everyone

An enduring legacy takes into consideration the needs, opinions, and expectations of all current family members while also leaving room for future generations. If one family member requires more financial support than another — or if an heir is better suited to continue the family business — the family legacy might include plans that directly address those family members.

For example, a truly equitable estate plan does not necessarily distribute assets evenly, but according to the needs of the family. Martinez recalls the story of her clients who worked together with their children to plan the estate: “The process allowed the family to elevate their commitment to building a positive legacy — and their ability to compromise for the benefit of the multigenerational family.”

Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo and Company and its Affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. This communication cannot be relied upon to avoid tax penalties. Please consult your tax and legal advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you depends on the specific facts of your own situation at the time your tax return is filed.