The Modern Way to Leave Behind a Family Legacy

These Preventive Law Alerts are patterned after an annual publication to all mountain climbers called “Accidents in North American Mountaineering” which writes up all mountaineering accidents describing the accident, what caused it, how it may have been prevented so that further mountain climbing catastrophes may be avoided. Preventive Law Alerts are the equivalent of “Legal Accidents in North American Law” a description of the legal catastrophe and how it may be avoided using preventive law techniques.

 The Legal Catastrophe

 My dear friend, Dennis Stack, had a tragedy occur in his family. His father worked very hard and died young without ever telling him about his family and ancestors. He was hoping his mother would fill him in on the family history, but when she came to visit he realized she had developed dementia and lacked the mental ability to relate any information about his family background. He lamented this greatly because he was left with a void and no way to tell his young daughter about her grandparents and ancestors.

  My wife and I kept copies of photos of our young family as they grew up in Arizona with us – taking pictures constantly and saving them in a file cabinet. Unfortunately, our home became contaminated with “black mold” which infiltrated the walls, wood, clothing, files and required us to destroy the family history.

 We suffered another calamity. My father grew up in early Phoenix and was the youngest Speaker of the Arizona House and lived through the politics of the depression with stories galore. I took on the task of tape recording his history and got through his grammar school and high school putting it all on an audio tape. I was looking forward to finishing the taping sessions, but Dad always had an excuse to do it later, many times because he was tired in the evening. Before he was able to continue he had an unexpected stroke and died. All of the early Arizona history was buried with him – stories galore that will never be heard.

The Preventive Law Solution

I have always thought that graveyards and mausoleums, with the names and dates of the deceased etched thereon, and maybe a short statement, are there for anyone who wants to take a boring walk and stroll through a graveyard. What a lackluster remembrance for the wonderful spirit that lays beneath the gravestone. I always thought it would be much more logical to turn all the gravestones into building blocks, recycle the metal from coffins, and plow under the graveyards and use them for organic farms, forests and parks – before doing that make sure we file all of the writings, sayings, pictures, letters, home movies involving the deceased person and let that be the long lasting memorial of our wonderful ancestors.

My friend and colleague Dennis Stack has spent the last 6+ years working to come up with a solution so that other families, like mine and yours, will not be left without the family history of our ancestors. He and a colleague, Tom Cormiers, formalized a Treasury of Family Heritage – a web site that is used as a permanent and protected receptacle for all family history; the voices, the home movies, ancient documents, thoughts and history of everyone who died and who is still alive. They made the Treasury of Family Heritage so it operates like a social network where all family members now and in the future may access the family information, now, in the next generation and longer.

To facilitate the historical gathering process they have trained a national group of so called “Professional Story Keepers” who are members of the International Association of Story Keepers (IASK) and are available to help each family organize their family history on the individual family web sites in the Treasury of Family Heritage. If requested, they will interview family members and digitize the interview.

The story keepers will arrange for the pictures, documents, audios and videos to be digitized and safely moved onto the family web site set it up with confidential protection so the family may release information only to specified family and friends. In certain cases the family may choose to make the information public.

The International Association of Story Keepers and the Treasury of Family Heritage provides a way for all of us to capture our stories and build our legacies. It enables families to preserve their unique history in audio, text, video and photographs in a place which protects this important media from disaster and loss for all time. The Treasury also provides distant family members the opportunity to stay in touch with their loved ones in new and effective ways such as sending video messages or even live chats.

As an estate planning attorney I want all the families that I advise to set up an arrangement to preserve their family’s heritage which is an even more precious asset than material wealth.

The cost of setting up a Treasury of Family Heritage protected web site is free until such time as the family builds up the Treasury to a large size, then it is subject to a minimal monthly charge to maintain the web site.

To the extent that you want additional information go to: www.treasuryofheritage.com/1433