August 21, 2012 / no comments

Preserving Your Legacy in Print
2 AUG 15 2012
A published book is one way to create a lasting legacy for the future.

When it comes to ensuring a legacy, a variety of legal and financial strategies can provide peace of mind. But archiving the memories and stories that make up a family’s unique history can often unite and engage future generations in ways dollars and documents never can.

For John P. Nelson, CEO of SilverStone Group, the insurance company founded by his father, publishing a legacy book allowed him to not only learn more about his past but also to share it with his three children and eight grandchildren.

Nelson worked with Legacy Preservation in Omaha, Neb., to research, write, edit and publish An Uncommon Family. The title is taken from a creed by American statesman Dean Alfange, which his father framed and hung in his office, that begins, “I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon, if I can.”

“My father truly was a self-made individual,” explained Nelson. “He was born in 1912, ran away from home and was on his own since the eighth-grade. He put himself through high school and college and eventually earned his law degree, all through manual labor.”

Nelson, 72, is now passing the reins of the family company to his son, the third generation.

According to Jim Fogarty, one of three partners at Legacy Preservation, family patriarchs often hit milestones and begin thinking about leaving a legacy beyond a buttoned-up estate or business plan. “Our clients have a thirst for something more than financial advice,” he said.

The firm has worked with 38 to 40 families over the past six years, he says, and every one “has had a passion for recording their story.”

Nelson said that the company uncovered information that he never would have found on his own, such as the deed to his great-grandparents’ Nebraska homestead. “They’ve found old newspaper clippings and lots of photos we’d never seen,” Nelson says.

Firms like Legacy Preservation and Legacy Books of Provo, Utah, another full-service shop owned by John Catron, offer various levels of service.

“Some families come to us with all their materials and want it all nicely bound in coffee-table-book quality,” Catron said. “Others come with nothing and want us to put it all together.”

Catron recently completed a history of Howard Tracy Hall, the first chemist to synthesize diamonds in a laboratory.

The cost of a legacy book depends on the type of services the client wants, the published quality and the quantity.

Catron is working on a history for a family on the East Coast that will cost $45,000, but he’s charged as little as $5,000 for small books. Fogarty said his company’s books range from $15,000 to $55,000, and above.

Though both firms offer digital copies of family histories and other multimedia presentations, most clients prefer bound books. “We tell clients the end product can be anything they want but they almost invariably look at a book as more permanent,” Fogarty said.

The process requires time and commitment from the clients, Catron explained, “but in the end, they get a legacy that lasts several hundred years.”