An approach to preserving legacies — through a professionally produced video or book, is helping families develop a strong identity that all members can articulate and understand their family’s common purpose. It’s an opportunity for families to understand where they came from and to use it as a foundation to develop the vision for their future together — and therefore an area of focus of the Hawthorn Institute for Family SuccessSM.

With 21st-century technology, families have a choice of medium for present and future generations to understand their roots and family history.

Increasingly matriarchs and patriarchs of families choose to share their stories and educate their descendants.

In doing so, they enable their family to gain a new and deeper understanding of the family’s formula for success, and appreciation for the blood, sweat, and tears behind the creation of a family business, overcoming obstacles, and an intimate perspective into the values most important to their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. Families can choose their preferred medium: video, assisted memoirs, and family history books and/or photo books.

Our lives are made up of the stories that will serve to educate, motivate, comfort, inspire, mentor, and entertain present and future generations.

Thus, those lives and stories need to be properly documented, shared, and presented via a medium in which they will be most understood and appreciated. A professional interviewer can bring those stories to life, resulting in many benefits for generations to come.

In their family’s experience in preserving their history, Marty and Marlene wanted to make sure that despite the wealth they were passing down to their children and grandchildren, those family members would be motivated to continue the philanthropy and tradition of giving back to the community.

By sharing their stories of hard work in building the business and their community involvement and philanthropy, the strong messages of their values came through very clearly in the documentary of their lives.

And Marty and Marlene chose to include an “Ethical Will” section, where they clearly articulated that any inheritance would come with an expectation of self-sufficiency, philanthropy, and caring for those less fortunate.

When we ask parents to share their stories, we honor their lives.

Legendary businessman and real estate pioneer, Bill, built up the largest residential and commercial real estate companies in the western United States. His daughter engaged a legacy preservation film production company, which preserved his life story and secrets to success. At the time, Bill’s grandson was in college and dreamed of one day taking over his grandfather’s real estate empire. Sadly, before this could happen, Bill developed Alzheimer’s disease. 

But the road map to his secrets for success in life and in business was well documented in Bill’s own words in the film produced for this family. For Bill’s grandson, this film is priceless.

As we pass down our stories, we give future generations an invaluable gift.

Cat, a cowgirl and a rancher, was a descendant of a billionaire family on the East Coast. She decided to donate her beautiful ranch property to a nonprofit acquiring and maintaining land for open park space for the public.

As part of her life history, she gave the background to her choices so that future generations could learn from her example.

Children gain a sense of their roots, learning that they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Sabina and Hirabai grew up in the Gujarat province of India. They were simple farmers, living in a hut with buffalo dung floors and only two rooms — one for the humans and one for the animals. They moved to London and then to the U.S. where their son built a highly successful international hotel management company. Having their family history captured meant so much to them, almost like a time machine.

In this way, they built a connection with their descendants born in America, bringing to life their fascinating rags-to-riches story, while sharing their culture, religion, and tradition.

They created a bridge from the past to the future.

We tell our stories to transform ourselves, and we relive our experiences to transcend them.

Many people find the process of reliving their life very cathartic. After recounting their achievements and the obstacles they have overcome during a lifetime, many people realize how strong they have been. Through this process, they feel like they can handle anything. Irving’s family arranged for his family legacy to be produced on film. But shortly before the first day of filming, he received a terminal cancer diagnosis and wanted to cancel. His family urged him to keep the film date, and he reluctantly agreed. Recounting the many wonderful memories of his life was much like counting his blessings, and on the last day of filming he said, “I realize I’ve had a very long, full, and wonderful life. I feel that it’s okay to go now.”

Irving’s children said that having their father’s life history on film made their loss a little easier to bear because they had a part of him in perpetuity.

Adult children see their parents and in-laws from a new perspective, and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their lives.

A family video can lead to healing of wounds, sometimes based on misunderstandings. Rita felt taken for granted for everything she did for her in-laws who lived in her family’s home. But after she watched her in-laws’ family legacy film, she said, “Hearing them call me a daughter, not just a daughter-in-law, and describe in great detail how much they appreciate me and all the ways I care for them, changed my outlook and changed the entire atmosphere in our household.”

There’s an African saying, “When an elder dies, it’s as if an entire library has burned down.”

But with today’s technology, the library can be preserved through legacy preservation services. A professional documentary of a family’s story not only will capture the volumes in that library, but also will give voice to each family member’s personality, sense of humor, and values, and will enable the library to thrive for generations.

Knowing how the wealth was created and identifying values the family wants to promote as they move forward are critical steps to achieve family well-being. The more aligned and clear a family is regarding their identity, the more likely they are to have a shared family vision, healthy relationships, and the ability to adapt as life happens. That’s why we offer families the opportunities to capture and share their legacies.

If you wish to preserve your family legacy, please contact one of your Hawthorn advisors to explore how you can get started.