Construction on the Arkansas State Capitol building took 16 years to complete, lasting from 1899 to 1915. The total cost was $2.2 million, more than double the original $1 million budget initially approved for the project. It consists of an expansive 287,000 square feet. Its interior is filled with marble, and the exterior is made of local limestone from nearby in Batesville. It is most recognized by its 24-karat gold capped monumental dome, but to me, its most impressive features are its front doors.
The main entrance of the capitol building is highlighted by three sets of bronze doors purchased from Tiffany & Company in New York for $10,000. They stand 10 feet tall, and they are four inches thick. Although, for security reasons, they are no longer used by the public, these doors create a lasting first impression on those visiting the capitol.
Almost as impactful, but for different reasons, is a quote positioned immediately inside those massive bronze front doors. The quote is credited to John Ruskin, who died in January of 1900, just after construction on the capitol building began. Ruskin was a leading English art critic in his day, but he was also seen as a philosopher. He wrote on many different subjects, including geology, literature, botany, education, and (the topic of the referenced quote) architecture. The Ruskin quote posted at the majestic front entrance to the Arkansas State Capitol reads:
[W]hen we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for the present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time will come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our fathers did for us.”
When you tour the capitol building, you can tell that those involved in its planning, construction, and continued maintenance and restoration through the years believed in the message Ruskin preached.
Every week in my business, I meet with people who have spent their lifetimes building, sacrificing, and saving in order to create something they can be proud to pass on to the next generation. I hear stories of where these people came from and how they wound up where they are today. And I can see how desperately they want to leave things in order for their descendants.
What does it mean to “leave things in order” for the next generation? Estate law does not allow that to happen automatically. It requires planning. Obviously, the first thing you must do is put in writing a clear plan to ensure the right people receive the right things in the way you desire when you’re gone. They key words there are “clear” and “writing.” Do not assume your heirs will know your wishes. You do them a huge favor when you are clear, thoughtful, and thorough. Also realize that the form that writing takes matters tremendously. Relying solely on a last will and testament—the first estate planning tool that often comes to mind—puts you on the fast track to probate court. Avoiding probate court is worth the effort, and it takes more than just a will.
You must also consider taxes. Some estates are large enough to prompt concerns regarding the federal estate tax; most are not. But that does not mean taxes don’t matter in estate planning. Real estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and even regular income taxes all come into play when creating your estate plan.
Ruskin was right. Your descendants will look back one day, thankful and proud simply because you once touched the things they now hold. You’ve spent a lifetime building something you can be proud to pass on. Part of your legacy is the way in which you do that, the plan you put in place to pass it on. Take the time to do it right. Make it smooth. Make it clear. Make it cost efficient. Do what it takes to minimize the mental and emotional stress your family will face when wrapping up your affairs after you are gone.
If you’d like to talk with us about that, visit our website—elrodfirm.com—to leave a comment or a question. Set up a strategy session, which we offer at no charge, to get things moving in the right direction. We would like nothing more than to be a part of how you write your legacy.