Despite the restraint on family gatherings dictated by COVID-19, Thanksgiving 2020 should fill us with the reflections of a unique holiday, even if celebrated virtually through Zoom.
Thanksgiving is my favorite family holiday. Over the years, I have chosen to ignore the holiday’s conflicting historical origin and religious and political pronouncements. I simply enjoy the state sanctioned opportunity to gather with an abundance of food, family, and football. I also prefer the modern menu, having recently learned that the first, historical Thanksgiving feast lacked mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
By definition, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to express, and experience, collective gratitude among generations. We can celebrate Thanksgiving without conflicting religious pressures or the economic burdens of gift-giving that accompany other holidays. We can choose both pumpkin and pecan pie if we wish. At no other time of the year are leftovers celebrated with such anticipation and love. My adult sons have learned to show up with their own Tupperware if they want to take anything home.
As you might expect, I can also view Thanksgiving as an integral component of a family’s estate and legacy planning vision. Parents and grandparents need to tell stories and children and grandchildren need to take the time to listen. Estate planning is about more than just the stuff you own, it is who you are. With intention, embrace the family history and stories as part of your gratitude and thanksgiving. Make storytelling a tradition, ensuring that the younger generations hold that time as sacred. I wish I could hear my father and grandfather tell their stories again, but I carry forward the ancestral blessings that were firmly imprinted into my heart and memory. With Zoom, you can even record the family interaction. My father died ten days before Thanksgiving in 2007; however, we were able to relive his stories and our shared life experiences in full animation as we sat around the dinner table. How I wish I had recorded his wisdom during previous years. That year, the Cowboys beat the New York Jets and the Razorbacks beat LSU – Dad would have been thrilled.
I invite you to the flirt with the idea of experiencing Thanksgiving as an estate planning primer. Congress declared the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week, but who knew? Therefore, I will restate and declare the fourth week of November and corresponding Thanksgiving holiday as an additional week of estate planning awareness. A comprehensive estate plan is one more way to express thankfulness for one’s family and life’s abundance; it is also a gift that creates peace of mind.
Like Thanksgiving, estate planning celebrates the existence of interwoven generations. And ever more practically, it is a time for siblings to observe and visit about caring for aging parents or ailing siblings. It is a time for parents and grandparents to tell family stories and bring the family legacy into focus. Take time during this holiday to express love, values, and visions for the future.
Estate planning is not so much about stuff and stuffing; it is about the care and nurture of one’s family.