Heritage Planning: The 3rd Element of Successful Multi-Generational Planning

Heritage Planning for Generational Success
Planning for your money is not the same as planning for your family.

For centuries, “comprehensive planning” for most families has consisted of financial and estate planning. And, for centuries, that planning has failed and families have been unable to keep the family and fortune together of more than two or three generations.

The difference between the families who failed and the few families who kept their family and fortune to- gether for multiple generations is NOT in their financial or estate planning. The difference is that the suc- cessful families have a 3rd element to their planning: Heritage Planning. They pass their story, values and life lessons to their heirs, and prepare their family for their inheritance.

In the current market and economy, fortunes will be made and lost. We have dealt with upheavals larger than this in our history, and during those times, some people failed, while others – particularly those who were prepared and who prepared their families – thrived! There are good times and bad times to invest in the market. But, it is always a good time to invest in preparing and protecting your family.

Two kinds of inheritance

We receive and pass on two kinds of inheritance, not one. The first, the financial inheritance, is the one with which we are most familiar. It is the one around which advisors have built their practices for centuries. But, the studies tell us (as hard-earned experience tells those of us who have been at this business for a few years) that there is a second, more important inheritance that we also receive and pass on. That is the emotional inheritance, the sum total of the values, stories, life les- sons, and family traditions.

In 2005, a study by Allianz found that leaving a legacy (an emotional inheritance) was far more important to peoples than leaving an inheritance, and that 77% of both “baby boomers” and their parents rated “values and life lessons” as the most important legacy they could receive or leave. Only 10% of boomers said that financial assets or real estate were important as an inheritance. The study concluded that money is a ‘minor’ component of legacy to parents and their heirs. “Many people wrongly assume that the most important issue among families is money and wealth transfer — it’s not,” said Ken Dychtwald, a gerontologist, and designer of the survey. “What we found was the memories, the stories, the values were 10 times more important to people than the money.”

Generations

Still, many people and professional advisors approach planning from a purely financial perspective. “What is your net worth?” “How much money do you want to pass on to your children?” and “How should we plan to minimize your estate taxes?” Are those questions important in the context of the services you need?

Of course. They always will be important. But, they do not complete the picture. If we have learned anything from decades of experience and studies, it is that planning for the future of your money is not the same as planning for the future of your family. And, when people define real success in the context of what they want for their children, grandchildren and generations to come, money is just about the last thing they mention.

Emotional inheritances are different for every person, and unique to every family, but, they can be discovered, shared and folded into planning.

We know that passing values and life lessons to future generations is the key to success for families who have kept their family and fortunes together for generations. It has been the key for centuries.

9 out of 10 plans fail. They always have.

You have probably seen or heard about the studies that conclude that 90% of the time family fortunes are lost by the end of the 3rd generation. And, this is not new. Since ancient times, the majority of inheritance plans have failed. Two thousand years ago a Chinese scholar penned the adage: “fu bu guo san dai,” or “Wealth never survives three generations.” In thirteenth century England they said “Clogs to clogs in three generations,” and in nineteenth century America the expressions became “From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”

And, over 200 years ago, Adam Smith – of “specialization and division of labor” fame – summed it up in The Wealth of Nations when he said: “Riches, in spite of the most violent regulations of law to prevent their dissipation, very seldom remain long in the same family.”

Which raises the obvious questions:

  • If 90% of families fail to keep the family and its fortune together for more than 3 generations, what do the other 10% do differently? And,
  • What would it mean to you and your family if you could be part of the 10% who succeed?

The difference for the 10% is not in their financial or estate planning. The difference is that they have a 3rd element to their planning, described by Jay Hughes and others as heritage planning.

They prepare their family for their inheritance.

Where Heritage Planning Fits

SerenityIn the early 1980’s, nearly all estate planning was done with Wills. (Which by the way, had not changed substantially in form or purpose since the year 1540, when King Henry VIII of England codified estate planning and inheritance custom into the system that would be used for nearly 400 years!)

Trusts were generally believed to be applicable only to very large and complicated estates.

In the mid-1980’s, Bob Esperti and Renno Peterson formed the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys with a goal to “Change how America Plans” to use Living Trusts and avoid probates in even modest estates. When I joined that group in the late 1980’s, there were less than 90 members. Within 10 years, the Network had grown to over 1,500 members, and Living Trusts were becoming the norm in all estate plans.

The National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys helped change the way America did its estate planning; which was a wonderful accomplishment. But, we still didn’t complete how America plans. Now, with the increasing recognition of the importance of better relationships between advisor and client, and bolstered by numerous studies and practical experience validating the 90% inheritance failure rate, it is clear that there are not 2, but 3 elements to successful planning.

The three elements of successful multi-generational planning are very distinct and separate, but work together to provide success for generations. The three elements of planning, each vital to successful planning are:

  1. Financial Planning, which prepares and protects your assets during your lifetime;
  2. Estate Planning which prepares your assets for your family; and
  3. Heritage Planning, which prepares your family to receive their inheritance
    (which includes far more than just your assets).

You have probably done a great job of financial and estate planning. But, have you prepared your families for the inheritance they will receive as a result of the financial and estate planning you have done?

A powerful question

Imagine that you could look fifty years into the future, and see your family gathered together in the living room. Ask yourself, “what would I like to see happening there, and what would I like to hear them talking about?”

For some, seeing things like family unity and individual family members living full, productive lives, comes to mind. Describing the things you wouldn’t want to see or hear is probably pretty easy. No one wants to see family discord, or individuals who are leading trouble-filled lives.

The question is: how far will the planning you have done to date take your family towards the picture that you just described? The fact is, most people (90%, according to the studies!) have made no such provision as part of their planning. Their financial and estate planning will pass money and assets to future generations, but not the tools, training or mentoring to effectively use those assets to live full, productive lives. Money is an extraordinarily powerful tool – that, like fire, can be a wonderful servant or a terrible master. Ironically, the better you are at financial and estate planning, the more important it is that you prepare your family for the inheritance they will receive.

As the Allianz study points out, this is the most important outcome that people want from their planning. It is also what has helped the ‘successful’ 10% keep family and fortune together across generations, including through war, depressions and every other kind of economic and political upheaval–including times so rough that today’s market and economy rollercoaster looks tame by comparison.

Peace and Harmony

Heritage planning completes the process. Through heritage planning, you prepare your family to get together, play together, and work together and support each other so that each family member lives a fulfilled life, and your family and fortune stay intact.

We took what has worked in successful families for centuries and put it into The Heritage Process™, a proven six-step process that helps people to discover and secure the future they really want. It was developed to help families and individuals achieve their dreams across generations. The Heritage Process has been used successfully for over two decades, by families with estates ranging from a few hundred thousand to billions of dollars.

It’s not about the money

In the current market and economy, fortunes will be made and lost. We have dealt with upheavals larger than this in our history, and during those times, some people failed, while others – particularly those who were prepared and who prepared their families – thrived! There are good times and bad times to invest in the market. But, it is always a good time to invest in preparing and protecting your family. The principles of The Heritage Process™ have nothing to do with money. They apply to people of all income and asset levels because planning for the future of your money is not the same as planning for the future of your family.

For financial planning there are various processes to help you determine which tools , strategies, products and services will best prepare and protect your assets during your lifetime. Similarly, there are processes that estate planning attorneys use to help you determine which estate planning tools and strategies will best prepare and pass your assets at your death. For heritage planning, we use The Heritage Process™ to help guide you through the process to identify, articulate and pass your story and life lessons, and prepare your family for their inheritance.

Learn More

We all leave a legacy, whether we plan for it or not. This we know: it is for your values, not your valuables, that you will be remembered. Through The Heritage Process™, your legacy can benefit generations.

To learn more about The Heritage Process™, please contact us.