Archive | Family Communication

Trusts and Estates: 7 Steps to Designing the Perfect Trust and Estate Plan – Part 1 & 2

If you have thought about your estate plan, chances are you have also done a lot of thinking about the pros and cons of trusts. You might have already decided that trusts will be part of your estate/wealth transfer plan. But where do you go from here?  Organizing your thoughts and desires concerning your trusts and estates plan might be a daunting task, but broken down can become a much more manageable process.  

The following seven steps will help you build a working outline for a thoughtful and successful trust document. 

Trusts and Estates


Why Should I Do This?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Why do I need to go through this process – isn’t that what my attorney is for?”  Continue Reading →

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What Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn Can Teach Us About Long-Term Trusts


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Do you know who Edward Rutledge was?

Edward Rutledge was born in 1749. By the 1770s, he had built a successful law practice in Charleston, South Carolina.

Edward, along with his brother, John, represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. At age 26, Edward was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In the War of Independence, Edward served as an artillery captain. He was captured by the British and remained a prisoner of war for about a year.

After the war Edward served as a state senator and ultimately South Carolina’s governor until his early death at age 50 in 1800.

Two of his direct descendants living today, about 214 years later, are Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson.

Didn’t see that coming? That’s the point.

Most so-called “Dynasty Trusts” drafted today will last for 360 years (under Florida law) or longer (under a few other states’ laws). It’s important to avoid the trap of assuming you know what’s best for all of your descendants a even just few generations down the road.

Governor Rutledge was a Founding Father and Really Important Guy. His amazing experiences surely made him a worldy and learned individual in his time.

But do you think he could have foreseen the needs, wants, and lifestyles of two Hollywood stars? Before anyone could have imagined Hollywood (let alone independent and wealthy women)?

Here’s the lesson: Flexibility is the key.

If you’re going to set up a permanent or near-permanent trust, give your trustees the powers and discretion they will need to adapt to an ever-changing world.

How do you do that?

Talk to us, of course…

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How Do Other People Handle Estate Planning?

If you’re thinking hard about how to transfer wealth to the next generation(s), you’ve probably asked this question already. “How do other people handle estate planning?” Your intentions are good, and doing research can be helpful in many situations. But in estate planning, this sort of thinking leads to one thing: Procrastination.

Trust and wealth transfer questions are hard. Hard questions cause us great discomfort. Questions like:

  • Who should the trustee be?
  • How much should the beneficiaries get and when?
  • Should they get it outright at certain ages?
  • Should we “incentivize”?
  • How do I avoid “ruining” my children and grandchildren?

It’s overwhelming, so we need a shortcut: “What does everyone else do?”

Here’s what they do: They do what’s right for their families. “Well, that’s no help,” you might say. But neither is looking at what the Joneses, Buffetts or Rockefellers did, either.

Those families are and were full of individuals. Individuals who may or may not be anything like the ones in your family.

Each family has different:

  • values;
  • social habits;
  • education levels;
  • ideas about money;
  • ideas about work; and
  • people.

So, it’s much more important to ask, “What should we do?” Rather than, “What did they do?” Think about your family. Who knows them better than you?

Here’s a suggestion: Take a short break from the research about famous trusts and about how famous families transferred their wealth. While you’re at it, you can skip the stories about how much Mr. Thurston Howell III thinks his kids should have. All of this is nothing more than a diversion.

How to get started? Just start. Break it into digestible pieces:

  1. What concepts and values are pivotal to you? Are you all about hard work, and you want to help your kin see the virtue in that? Are you more interested in broadening horizons? Art? Giving back?
  2. Who are the key players? List them – include yourself and your spouse (if you have one), and all those you think of when you think of your family.
  3. What are they like? What do they want to be? Likely, some of them are unsure (or “lost”). But, do you know what motivates them?
  4. How far apart are your answers to #1 and #3? What single action could you take this week that might close that gap? (Pick up the phone, send an email, schedule a dinner?)
  5. Can you articulate your biggest worries about handing off the reins to what you have built? (As you know, you can’t take it with you.)

You wrote all your answers down, right? No?

Ok, then get going – quick bullet points that only you can read are fine for now. When you’re done, you’ll have a place to begin and an initial road map.

And you won’t have to stop and ask a Rockefeller for directions.

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Just Give It All Away?

Warren Buffett. Bill and Melinda Gates.

They and others make headlines when they promise to give the bulk of their billions away. Why do these estate plans attract headlines and media attention? Mostly because we find it surprising when a billionaire announces he’s giving it all away. So, right off the bat it’s a good story (see Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick for more on why surprise is important to getting a tale retold).

But there also seems something noble about it. Almost Super-American. It’s as if these folks are saying, “Look, this country is awesome. I made a fortune. My kids can make one too if they work hard enough. So they don’t need my wealth. In fact, they’ll be better off if they make their own.”

So it makes a great American story. And the concept has a simplicity about it. The wrinkle-free estate plan: give it all away! That resonates with many of us.

So why don’t you just give all your wealth away like Warren & Bill?

Not so simple? Here’s why:

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Naples, Florida 34109
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