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The Challenges and Opportunities in Multi-Generational Planning


Numerous studies have highlighted that 90 percent of wealth does not last beyond three generations of a family. This phenomenon is not new. In fact, in 1776, Adam Smith remarked in The Wealth of Nations that “riches, in spite of the most violent regulations of law to prevent their dissipation, very seldom remain long in the same family.”

There are three big-picture components of multi-generational planning that are critical to ensure successful transfer of wealth. The first two components address money directly. The third one is about preparing the family to receive the inheritance and manage it wisely.

1. Financial planning

Financial planning allows families to align resources with expenditures in a way that supports what’s most important to them. By working with a financial planner or investment advisor, families can protect and grow their wealth.

2. Estate planning

Estate planning addresses what happens to assets (financial and non-financial) after the first generation of the family passes on.

3. Legacy planning

Legacy planning moves away from financial assets and shifts the focus to relationships, education, and preparedness. Many affluent clients report that leaving a legacy of values and life lessons is more important to them than leaving money.

This is an area that many CPAs and financial planners do not cover, although it has the potential to add significant value to clients. If 90 percent of families cannot preserve their wealth beyond a third generation, what would it mean for your clients to be in the other 10 percent that succeed?

Research has shown that families that successfully transition wealth across generations address the following issues early, in a structured way, often with the help of a trusted advisor.

  • Family history and values

    Values, stories, family traditions, and accumulated wisdom together create the unique profile of each family. Identifying and preserving those elements can help families come and stay together. Remembering the story of wealth accumulation, sharing discussions of what money represents and what it is for, and explicit agreement on internal family “rules” can all be used effectively in bringing values and family history to the surface.

    Careful estate planning and business succession can ensure that the technical aspects of transition are executed in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes. However, the technical documents alone are insufficient to maintain harmony in the family. Shared work ethic, hopes and dreams, traditions and faith can keep the family together, regardless of the money situation.

  • Communication and relationships

    Effective and constructive communication among family members is critical to continued harmony and mutual understanding. Whether the family chooses to establish formal family governance or keep it informal and fluid, skillful facilitation can be helpful in guiding difficult conversations.

  • Education

    Affluent parents often worry that their children won’t learn the value of money or won’t experience the satisfaction that comes from making a living. The best course of action is to take charge of their financial education.

A healthy relationship with money is best taught and modeled at a young age. Through continuous education and practice, combined with constructive leadership by example, children can absorb the basics of good money habits. Whether the focus of the conversation is on saving, preventing debt, or giving back to the community, the ultimate goal is to raise self-reliant and productive individuals.

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.