By Anne Marie Levin, J.D., LL.M., Heritage Design Professional,™ Key Family Wealth and Joan B. Kaye, Senior Vice President and Relationship Manager, Key Private Bank
The auto industry is booming, with more than 18,000 auto dealerships in the U.S. owned by more than 8,000 individuals, private companies, and publicly-traded firms. In fact, consumers have spent $5 billion more on new vehicles in just the first half of this year compared to last, despite rising prices.
While blue skies are currently smiling down on the industry, the journey hasn’t been easy. Dealership owners have faced their fair share of challenges—be it competition from rival dealers, market slumps, or indirect threats posed by ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
For founders and owners, critical lessons have been learned over the years—lessons that should be passed on to the next generation. The story of these lessons can help unify families, including potential business successors, and protect against the misuse and loss of financial wealth by inheritors.
The purpose of recording your story
As a dealership owner, recording your life story in print or in video to create a lasting and meaningful legacy is an essential part of the planning process.
By recording your stories, you can preserve the life lessons learned from running a dealership for generations to come. You can preserve the essence of your successes and failures, how you found the strength to confront challenges, and your key values. You can describe who you are and communicate what you think is most important to successive generations.
This essential part of legacy planning is a far more significant and enduring legacy than financial wealth. The process of remembering and reflecting on your life and experiences can help you understand your life more clearly with the benefit of perspective. It can also illuminate a vision of what is most important for your future.
An impressive number of clients have said that this journey helped them focus on what was truly important, and what they wanted to achieve during the rest of their lives. Many have reported that, as a result of their guided discovery session, they have improved their relationships with children and grandchildren, and better aligned their estate plan and charitable giving with their values.
Intentionally engaging in legacy planning and recording your story can go a long way to ensuring your message and values live on forever.
How to record your life story
Anyone can write a story about life lessons that taught you the most and the values you hold most dear.
One way to begin your legacy story is to outline what is most important to you, as well as your most memorable life lessons and stories. Then, begin writing, almost as if you were speaking to a yet-unborn grandchild or great-grandchild. Describe where you came from, how you got to where you are, the challenges you faced while running a dealership and navigating the complexities of the auto industry, and how you overcame those obstacles. Describe your life’s crossroads, the choices you made along the way. Recall your greatest joys.
Resources are available to help you create your legacy statement. Everplans® provides a worksheet with suggested questions. Another tool that can help define what matters most to you is a guide written by Dr. Eric Weiner, entitled “Words from the HEART: A Practical Guide to Writing an Ethical Will,” which can guide you in telling your story based on the HEART acronym: Hope, Experiences in Life, Appreciation, Religion, and Treasures.
Key Private Bank has trained professionals who can help you write your story through a process called “Guided Discovery.” We guide clients with questions earmarked to identify and articulate what is truly important to support their family purpose and mission for generations. We then record and preserve their unique story, including their heritage, life lessons and values, how they want to be remembered, and what they wish for their descendants.
The benefit for future generations
Regardless of when you decide to start on this inspirational journey—the day you found a dealership, 10 years after running the company, or right before you sell or transition the business to a son or daughter—remember that your story continues until your last breath. Share your legacy story with your family and keep it handy so you can add to it as significant events occur. Encourage other family members to record their unique stories, as well.
Through legacy planning, you can affect how your heirs will treat their inheritance, ensure the survival of your values and wisdom, avoid family conflict, and encourage continued family unity and harmony. Give a voice to your legacy that will impact you and your descendants for generations and sharing it with your family can encourage deeper family communication and engender greater trust.
Share it with your advisor and your attorney to ensure that your estate plan furthers your values and wishes. Your legacy statement could be the most important legacy you leave. It is said that when a person dies without passing on their life stories and wisdom, it is like a library burning down. All is lost.
Joan B. Kaye is Senior Vice President and Relationship Manager with Key Private Bank. She can be reached at Joan_B_Kaye@KeyBank.com or 1-516-660-9851.
This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyBank is Member FDIC. KeyCorp. © 2018. CFMA #180720-435898
Investment products are: NOT FDIC INSURED* NOT BANK GUARANTEED* MAY LOSE VALUE * NOT A DEPOSIT* NOT INSURED BY ANY STATE OR FEDERAL AGENCY