I mean, it is and it isn’t. Owning the land is the “what”. But it’s really about the “why”. It’s about what property ownership allows you to do. Not just for you but for your descendants.
As an example, my great-great-grandfather and grandmother were able to purchase 40 acres of land immediately following emancipation. Because of that land, the ability to farm it and derive other revenue streams from the land, free and clear of any debt or interest payment, they were able to send all eleven of their children to either college or trade school.
Before they passed, they set up a deed that made sure that land, which they also eventually grew to 116 acres, remained in the family and passed down to their heirs.
But what they passed down was not just the land — the “what”. They also passed down a living example and set of values – the “why”. They passed down the example of stewardship to further advancement.
One could use such a resource to fuel education. In a society that could find a way to take anything away from you if they wanted for no reason other than the color of your skin, education was the one thing they could never take or deny.
The result of this lesson is that our family is fourth generation college-educated because of this example. Ownership of the land is what allowed that.
People think of inheritance as stuff – money, furniture, property. And, while these things are important, they are simply things. Real inheritance is the freedom owning such things allows.
Our daughter will never have to pay rent or mortgage in her life if she does not want to. She will will get one of our houses when she’s of age and inherit our property when we pass, free and clear of any encumbrances. But, it’s not about the what, it’s about the why…
What could any of us do if we never had to worry about a roof over our head? If we never had to think about a mortgage payment or debt? For example (and this is our daughter’s plan), if you are in college and own a whole house, maybe you could rent out rooms and use the income to pay for school loan free. Perhaps, when you graduate and get a job, you get to net the whole amount without having to pay rent, or a car payment, or college loan debt. How would life be different if this is the “what” all of us had and the “why” we learned and put into action?
That’s what she’s really inheriting. And, if she’s learned anything from us, I hope it is the lessons we’ve learned from our ancestors; that we are simply stewards of this stuff that we’ve been fortunate enough to have passed down to us and her job is to do the same. To take it, grow it, make her life and those of her children better with it and leave it to the next generation better than she found it. But, most importantly, pass down the same set of values to keep the chain going. That’s what a legacy is.