Preserving Legacy Through Estate Planning: The Story of the Pawpaw Fruit and Our Family Values

November 2, 2023

In the realm of estate planning, most individuals think primarily of tangible assets – houses, financial accounts, or family heirlooms. While these are crucial components, the preservation of family values and traditions is just as essential. Indeed, what truly endures through generations is the culture, history, and core values we instill in our descendants. The story of Devon Mihesuah and the pawpaw fruit is an inspiring testament to the importance of preserving one's legacy through reconnecting with one’s roots.

The Pawpaw: A Culinary Link to Ancestral Roots

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are America's forgotten fruit. These trees with mango-like fruits can be found throughout moist woods and along streams in Maryland and almost all of the states east of the Mississippi River.

Devon Mihesuah's memories of foraging for pawpaw fruits with her grandmother in Muskogee, Oklahoma, are more than just reminiscent tales of childhood. They serve as a powerful connection to her family’s past, especially the indigenous culture of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The pawpaw, North America's largest edible fruit, carries with it a rich history that intertwines with the experiences of Native Americans.

As Mihesuah planted pawpaw trees in her family garden in Kansas, her actions extended beyond merely growing fruits. It was about resurrecting a lost tradition, a nod to the Native food sovereignty movement, and establishing a link to the history of her ancestors. This commitment to legacy is something we should all emulate in our own ways, reminding ourselves that passing down traditions and core values is just as pivotal as bequeathing material possessions.

Estate Planning Beyond Tangible Assets

The resurgence of interest in the pawpaw, from Casey Roe's campaigns to introduce it to Durham restaurants, to Kareem Queeman's delightful pawpaw cakes, signals a collective effort to rediscover and celebrate a part of America's culinary heritage. The same can be said for our family values and traditions. We ought to view estate planning as not just a means of ensuring material assets pass smoothly to our loved ones, but also as a tool to perpetuate our family's core principles, traditions, and stories.

By incorporating these values into our estate plans, we can leave behind:

1. Stories and Personal Histories: Capture the stories of elders and ancestors, ensuring future generations understand their heritage.

2. Ethical Wills: Not legally binding, but these documents allow one to share values, blessings, and life's lessons.

3. Philanthropy: Leaving behind charitable donations can instill a sense of giving and responsibility in descendants.

Bringing it all Together

Mihesuah's tale, and that of many others involved in the pawpaw's revival, underscores the importance of looking beyond the tangible when considering what we leave behind for our successors. Our values, principles, and traditions form an intangible legacy that, if preserved and passed down, can impact generations for centuries.

Including these elements in your estate plan ensures not only the smooth transition of assets but also the continued legacy of your family's unique history and core values. The pawpaw fruit stands as a symbol of the importance of remembering, preserving, and celebrating our roots.

In conclusion, as we reflect on our estate planning priorities, let's remember that our real wealth isn't just in our bank accounts or properties; it's in the values we uphold, the stories we tell, and the traditions we keep alive. Like the pawpaw, these traditions might sometimes be overlooked, but with a bit of care and intention, they can be brought back into the limelight for future generations to cherish and uphold.

Stouffer Legal can help you preserve your family traditions – beginning with your hard-earned wealth. To begin the process of creating an effective Estate Plan, you can click here to view our online Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Elder Law workshop

Photo credit: SBS News

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