Discussing and agreeing upon the guiding values of your family is an important part in drafting your family mission statement, which can help determine the direction of your legacy for generations to come.

By Phil Tobin

This article is the sixth in a series taken from The One Page Legacy Plan by Phil Tobin, a free downloadable eBook from iGiftFund. In this piece, we’ll go over how to determine your family’s core values and how to infuse them into your family mission statement, the anchor of your One Page Legacy Plan. Some material in this section is abstracted from an article written by Brett and Kate McKay, “Creating a Positive Family Culture: How and Why to Create a Family Mission Statement.”

NOTE:  Some readers of this series may not have received the One Page Legacy Plan Worksheet that should have been included with the first article in this series. For your convenience, both the One Page Legacy Plan and the One Page Legacy Plan Worksheet are included at the end of this article.

“Family values” can be a nebulous concept – but we know that they’re important, especially when it comes to legacy planning.

Now that you’ve started the process of forming a family mission statement, one of the most important steps is to collectively decide upon the concrete values your family holds dear. This exercise will help guide your mission statement, and the conversations you’ll have in the process will be invaluable.

To get started, remember this: Don’t create a list of values you think you should have. Instead of imagining what you think other people would approve of, or what you’re “supposed” to value as a family, focus on those values and principles that truly resonate and inspire every member of your family.

A friend told me this about his thoughts on core values: “A core value is something so central you would say: Even if it’s harmful to us, we would still hold on to this value. Even if we had to pay penalties, even if we had to punish our children for violating it, even if we had to deny them something that would bring them pleasure, we would still hold to it.”

Make your list of values as big as you want – you’ll pare it down later, but you’ll want a lot to draw from. There are a few different categories you can use to get going:

Social values. These include concepts like peace, justice, freedom, equality, and bettering our community. Examples include:

  • Not hurting others
  • Standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves
  • Being respectful and courteous in your interactions
  • Volunteering time and skills in the community
  • Being generous with what you have
  • Being honest with others
  • Participating in teamwork whenever possible

Political values. Although being a liberal, conservative, or moderate may determine your opinion on how the government should run and what laws should be enacted, there are certain political values that remain constant across political parties. American values often include:

  • Exceptionalism: America is a land of limitless opportunities and, as such, has a duty to act
    as an example to other countries
  • Capitalism and private ownership of property
  • Patriotism
  • Treating everyone equally, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation
  • Being open-minded to new things
  • Following the law and respecting those who enforce it
  • Working hard for success

Religious values. Religious values center on the expectations that people have about themselves and others based on the beliefs of their faith. Although each faith has its beliefs, there are common values that many faiths tend to share. Examples of religious values include:

  • Showing compassion to those in need
  • Embracing the theological virtues of faith, hope and love
  • Treating others as one would like to be treated
  • Continually learning and growing both spiritually and intellectually
  • Being modest in your relations with others
  • Being respectful and nonviolent when interacting with others

Work values. Work values include such things as your philosophies about your job, your finances, and how you spend your money. For children, these values include how they approach school and their education. Examples of work values include:

  • Always doing your best work
  • Working as a team
  • Saving a portion of your salary/allowance
  • Finding opportunities to express your ideas and creativity
  • Being proud of your achievements
  • Making education a priority
  • Keeping in mind the part that your job plays in society
  • Treating coworkers, fellow students, customers, and authority figures the way that you
    want to be treated

Moral values. Moral values are your individual values that define what you think is right and wrong. Moral values provide the foundation from which you make decisions. Moral values are learned from your parents and your experiences. Examples of moral values include:

  • Being honest and trustworthy
  • Being courageous
  • Never giving up
  • Adding value to the world
  • Being patient
  • Taking personal responsibility

Recreational values. Recreational values refer to anything that involves fun and play. Recreation is important in the family because it fosters closeness and provides opportunities for learning, creating memories, improving social skills, and developing empathy. Examples of recreational values include:

  • Providing unstructured play time
  • Having family game nights
  • Allowing and encouraging each family member to pursue interests
  • Taking vacations together
  • Spending time outside together playing

These lists might sound exhaustive – and they’re designed that way for a reason. Having extensive,
wide-ranging discussions with your family about the values you collectively share is helpful in creating better family unity and to helping steer your legacy in the right direction. Having these discussions will help younger family members feel valued, and it’s likely they’ll remember these conversations for the rest of their lives. When the time comes for your wealth to pass to the next generation, those memories will be invaluable.

Phil Tobin is Chairman and President of iGiftFund.

Next in this series:
Now that you’ve determined your family values, it’s time to put pen to paper in drafting your family mission statement. We’ll guide you through the last steps in this important process to guide your legacy in the right direction. 

About iGiftFund

iGiftFund is an IRS-recognized, independent, public charity that sponsors donor advised funds.  Its mission is to inspire donors to create, preserve and distribute their philanthropic legacy and to make a truly remarkable impact on the lives of others, including the donor.

With the hallmarks of simplicity, accessibility and low administrative fees, iGiftFund sets the standard of excellence in the industry and distinguishes itself from the large, national commercial and independent DAF sponsors. Based in Hudson, Ohio, iGiftFund works nationally with donors and with financial advisors on their familiar investment platform, in open architecture. iGiftFund’s administrative fees are the most competitive in the industry, starting at just 45 basis points on the first $500,000 tier.