Who will raise the kids? What will happen to the house and cars? Who gets the china? These are a few of the important, sometimes tedious, frustrating and often painful decisions made when planning one’s estate. Beyond the big decisions and divvying up of stuff, a local estate attorney is also making sure people leave behind the intangibles, like their dreams, stories, voices and even silly songs.
Yvonne Olivere, attorney and owner of Olivere Law in Stapleton, helps people plan how life will go on after their death through estate planning, including wills, trusts and guardianship—and also through estate administration, the actions after death including navigating probate court and passing assets to loved ones. While Olivere’s training prepared her to put the legal aspects of her clients’ estates in order, she thinks it is just as important for her clients to pass along a personal sense of who they are to future generations—and she has made that an integral part of her practice.
Currently, as part of her fee for planning and administration, Olivere provides clients with a three-page questionnaire to help them pass on personal information, such as who their role models were, what traditions they had, what their favorite movies were, first jobs, impactful events and fundamental spiritual or religious beliefs. She videotapes her clients providing their answers.
For people who want to do more, Olivere also offers an online, living legacy for an additional fee. One of Olivere’s clients, Stephen Newman, is the co-creator of a website originally marketed to funeral homes as a way for families to create websites for recently passed loved ones. Olivere saw the potential for offering Newman’s product to her clients. The online site is intended to augment estate planning, not replace it. Unlike the video, additions can be made to the personalized website, including by other family members in the future.
“It’s about leaving your legacy the way you want it told and allowing future generations a window through which to see where they came from,” says Newman. His personal family site has narrated photos and videos including a rousing dance performed by himself, his wife and two children titled “Newman Family Shake.” He is still adding to the site but says, “It has been fantastic to capture stores never known to my kids (or myself) if not for pulling this together. It has meant the world to me.”
“I know clients who have lost their parents and have nothing to remember them by except pictures—pictures without explanations,” says Olivere. “They begin to forget their loved ones’ voices, stories they were told, memories they had with particular loved ones. They cannot ask questions anymore. What a huge loss!”
Stapleton residents and clients of Olivere’s, Tanya and Ethan Jahnke, parents of an 8 and 11-year-old are looking forward to creating their own family legacy website. “I really wish I had a video or audio of my parents, who have both now passed,” says Tanya who loves the idea of sharing family history, their voices and hopes for their childrens’ futures. “It seems backwards that we only see memorial videos that celebrate someone’s life at their funeral.” The Jahnke’s plan to share their living legacy with their family while they are still living but say it will be wonderful for their children to have after they are gone.
Lowry residents and parents, Kate and Todd Griffin are currently working on their living legacy. “We’ve heard from a lot of our friends ‘oh, that’s on our to-do list, but it seems so hard or we don’t want to think about things like that,’” says Kate. “We agree with them, but again just tell everyone how we feel so much better knowing that we have a little piece of us “ ‘tucked away,’ just in case.”