Sunday, February 25, 2007

Legacy Planning Process, Part I

Several weeks ago, our investment advisor urged Sarita and me to seriously consider hiring a Legacy Planner. (Note the difference between legacy planning and "mere" estate planning. I described some of the philosophical and practical differences back in November.)

Greg Smith, the gentleman whom our advisor recommended, presented a couple of graphics that I think give further insight into some of the differences.

Here I will present only the "Legacy Planning Pyramid" (© 2006 Resonate Companies, Inc. and GDI Consulting USA, Inc.; used by permission):

[Click on the image to see it full size.]

According to Greg, "traditional" financial and estate planning comprise the first two layers of the Legacy Planning Pyramid. He defined financial planning as making appropriate decisions concerning investing; life, disability and long-term care insurance; basic retirement and tax planning, etc. And traditional estate planning: the preparation of proper documents: wills, powers of attorney, trusts, foundations, and so forth.

Proper legacy planning, Greg said, adds a legacy strategy (including statements of mission, vision, values and priorities), plus more advanced legal and financial strategies that may be required to provide an appropriate structure to uphold the strategy, and, most importantly, succession planning--practical plans concerning how one intends to pass on one's mission, vision, values and priorities to one's heirs, executors, etc.

I think it's interesting how many people there are who are delighted to help you do traditional financial and estate planning. Talk to almost any "advanced" financial advisor today and he or she will speak of these matters. These people are all about helping you analyze your life insurance portfolio, increase the size of your retirement account, save taxes, make more money available to your heirs.

Almost no one talks about the things that Greg spoke of as essential to legacy planning.

But legacy planning, as I see it, "adds" the entire layer (and I would like to suggest it is the more fundamental layer) of purpose. Why am I interested in passing wealth to the next generation? What is the purpose of that wealth?

As we discussed these matters, Greg asked a question. "Suppose we were to say a family has successfully passed on its legacy to the next generation if two things, at minimum, are true: 1) the family's wealth is still there when the first generation has passed away, and, 2) none of the members of the second generation have seen their lives destroyed due to improper use of funds; no family relationships have been ruined as a result of strife over money.

"Of families who use traditional financial and estate planning techniques and go no further," he asked, "what percentage would you guess are successful, according to this definition, in the second generation? How many wealthy families still have the wealth and are still relationally intact in the second generation?"

"Maybe one or two percent?" I suggested.

"Oh!" he said. "You are pessimistic! . . . No. The real number is about 30 percent. . . . Thirty percent of all families who do traditional financial and estate planning are still intact in the second generation. While the assets were prepared for transfer, the heirs were inadequately prepared to receive them. They were never given the opportunity to explore the rights, roles and responsibilities of being an heir.

"By contrast," he said, "what percentage of families do you think are successful, by the same definition, if and when they have engaged in full legacy planning?"

"I have no idea," I said.

"The statistics show 90%-plus," he said. [He referenced Roy Williams and Vic Preisser, co-authors of Philanthropy: Heirs and Values for these statistics.]

The key problem with most traditional estate planning, he said, has to do with a lack of "intergenerational communication," a lack of attention to "family systems, creating a shared family vision, and matching the passion and purpose of one's life with the purpose of one's wealth."

So Sarita and I have begun a legacy planning process.

More later.
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