Family Wealth

What is a Boundary? (Boundary Series, part 1)

Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Family Wealth, Skills Building | 0 comments

What is a Boundary? (Boundary Series, part 1)

[The following entry was originally posted on Melissa’s Purposeful Living blog at]

If there were only one skill I could teach, it would be boundaries. In both my professional life and personal life, I have observed that there is no more powerful skill than the ability to have, communicate, manage, and maintain healthy boundaries. This applies in our home life, personal life, work life, social life, and spiritual life.

Boundaries are the key to health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, frustrated, afraid, angry, resentful, depressed, anxious, or anything of the like, read on. This series on boundaries can help.

First, what is a boundary? Boundaries can be tangible or intangible. Tangible boundaries include fences, walls, property lines, and even our skin. They tell us where our ownership and responsibility begin and end. They keep in the good, such as pets, children, and organs. They keep out the bad, like thieves, rain, and viruses. Examples of intangible boundaries include words, time, and emotional distance.

Whether tangible or intangible, boundaries serve the same purposes. They help define us, so that others know who we are and aren’t.  They tell us where our responsibility and ownership end and where someone else’s begins.  They help let the good in, such as love, joy, and success, while keeping out the bad, such as pain, abuse, and fear. Boundaries serve to protect our values, feelings, beliefs, talents, and limits. Because they are individualistic, they must be communicated in order to be known.

Boundary challenges are common among families and family businesses. The reason is the multitude of roles each person plays. Dad may be  a boss and a husband. Mom may be a wife and an investor. Uncle may be a vendor, a brother, and also a friend. Cousins may be co-workers, partners, and competition for leadership.

The lines can easily become blurry. How does a father give critical job performance feedback to his son? How does an aunt tell her nephew he is not the best candidate for a job? How does a niece tell her uncle she is being treated unfairly?

My favorite analogy for this situation is the wearing of hats. Each hat defines our present role and thus shapes our behavior. Here’s a story I’ve heard…

A father calls his son into his office and puts his “Boss” hat on. He stands behind his desk and tells his son, his employee, he is not well suited for this line of work and is thus being fired. The father then puts on his “Dad” hat, sits down by his son, and says, “I heard you lost your job. How can I help?”

It’s a beautiful example of boundaries done well. The truth was spoken and handled respectfully. Critical feedback and the need for change was expressed. Relationship was valued.

Nurturing healthy boundaries is a delicate process. One only you can do. One you must do to have healthy relationships, both with others and yourself.

The next entry in the Boundary Series will be “Common Boundary Challenges.”

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What’s In A Name?

Posted by on October 26, 2009 in Family Wealth, Musings | 0 comments

I recently heard on the radio a segment about the names of animal groups. A journey of giraffes. A leap of leopards. A charm of hummingbirds. I wondered how people came up with these names and who got to name them. How cool would that be to get to name a group of animals?!?!

So why is it that the names of trusts tend to be chosen by the attorney – without any input from the client  – and based on the applicable tax acronym or technique?

Why is it that the purposes, hopes, and dreams, which likely led to the trust’s creation, are mentioned nowhere in the legal document – even though the “Four Corners Rule” limits the interpretation of trust provisions to the information included in the trust document and to the exclusion of external factors? What a missed opportunity (to say the least).

I am grateful to John A. Warnick, an estate attorney, for his pioneering effort to help other estate attorneys move beyond boiler-plate legal documents and their inherent limitations – and to create a Purposeful TrustTM.

One small but significant part of a Purposeful TrustTM is the use of a meaningful name. John A. estimates the average beneficiary of a dynasty trust will receive close to 300 quarterly trust statements during his or her adult life. Each of these statements will reference the trust by name, which creates 300 opportunities to remind the beneficiary of the (non-financial) purpose of the trust.

Simple? Yes. Powerful? Yes!

Below are two examples of purposefully named trusts – and the explanation, which would be included at the beginning of the trust document. The first is an example provided at the Master’s Level Intensive and copyrighted by John A. The second is one that I wrote, during the Intensive, for a trust for which my husband and I have provided.

Read these and consider the power of a name…

Smith + Jones Legacy Trust

We have chosen the surnames of both my wife and myself and the word “Legacy” to frame the name of this trust. Each surname should remind the beneficiaries of the powerful heritage they have received from both sides of our family. The “+” between the two surnames emphasizes the synergy we feel our family generates because these two family lines came together with our marriage. The word “Legacy” with a capital “L” signifies something deeper than the legal definition of legacy. A legacy in the eyes of the law is money or property bequeathed to another. To us Legacy not only signifies the wealth transmission side of this trust instrument but it also represents the values that have come to us from previous generations. We hope the name of this trust will cause the beneficiaries to not only appreciate the value passing on to them but that they will always regard the values which were in large part responsible for our family’s financial success as a “Legacy” which they should build on for those who follow them.

Sweet Babes Trust

We have chosen Sweet Babes to frame the name of this trust. It symbolizes that our “pets” were always considered our kids and an integral part of our family. Like many other families, our kids were a part of our greatest pride and joy, and sharing their lives was one of the greatest blessings granted us by God. Accordingly, we wish to provide for all their wants and needs for the rest of their precious lives.

What message would you want to live on through a trust you create?

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Why Being Satisfactory is Not Enough – An Invitation to Be Distinctive

Posted by on October 12, 2009 in Family Wealth, Financial Planning | 0 comments

According to a Prince & Associates survey, there is a disconnect between the value financial advisors believe they provide clients and the value high net-worth clients believe they receive. That is, while advisors tend to believe they offer high-value service, clients are not so sure. And, even those who are “satisfied” are not likely to remain loyal.

Survey respondents who rated themselves as “satisfied” indicated they are not likely to recommend the advisor to their friends, may reduce their positions with the advisor, and may leave the advisor. Nearly one-third of those “moderately satisfied” or “satisfied” were “very” or “extremely” likely to leave their primary financial advisor within the next year.

“Highly committed” clients are 12 times more likely than “lower committed” clients to transfer new assets to an advisor’s care and 5 times more likely to recommend their advisor to family or friends (J.D. Power & Associates).

On average, moderately satisfied clients added $17,000 in managed assets per year; satisfied clients added $23,000. Loyal clients added an average of $376,000 in additional managed assets (Russ Alan Prince).

In the highly competitive field of financial services, being satisfactory is just not enough.

So what are high net-worth clients looking for? According to Prince & Associates, they are looking for a “true wealth manager” who can provide comprehensive financial services and products, including tax and estate planning services.

Another survey by Prince & Associates also highlights the importance of estate planning. Almost 80% of “middle-class millionaires” tagged providing for heirs as a primary concern, while 94% of respondents with $3 million – 10 million in financial assets ranked heirs as a top priority. Surprisingly, the estate plans for the majority of these same respondents are out of date.

In addition to skill and knowledge, the advisor – client relationship is key. It’s simply impossible to provide high quality personalized service to a client you do not know and stay in contact with.

So now I ask you – what sets you apart from your competitors? What services or manner of service do you offer that distinguishes you from the crowd? What makes you remarkable or exceptional?

I’d really like to know, because I am assembling a team of financial and legal professionals with whom to collaborate – to provide exceptional service and thus garner the loyalty of highly satisfied high net-worth clients, who will gladly tell others about the tremendous value they receive as a result of this unique collaboration.

Just what does that mean and look like? Contact me, and we’ll discuss options and opportunities – including a live demonstration of a client retreat, a family meeting, and more!

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Wealth Transfer – Planning for Success

Posted by on September 27, 2009 in Family Wealth, Financial Planning, Readings | 0 comments

Over the next 50 years, 50-100 trillion dollars will be transferred to successive generations. Approximately 80% of all transfers will fail by the 3rd generation.

According to a study in Williams and Preisser’s “Preparing Heirs” only 15% of estate / wealth transition failures were due to the what’s (i.e., legal and technical issues). The remaining 85% were result of the how’s (i.e., breakdowns of communication and trust, lack of family developed missions, and inadequate preparation of heirs). In fact, open communication and beneficiary preparation were the two factors that distinguished the successful 30% from the failed 70%.

Under the traditional estate planning paradigm, the primary considerations are tax minimization, asset protection, and probate avoidance. Estate documents are drafted in such a manner that if the first and the last pages were removed, no one could tell to whom they belong. Trust names most often reflect the tax purpose and the grantor’s surname. Yet none of these speak to the above determinants of success: communication and preparation.

And what about the family’s priceless intangibles: their human and intellectual assets? How are these planned for in traditional estate planning? Simple answer: They’re not.

Fortunately, there are other options.

One such option is the Purposeful TrustTM, created by John A. Warnick and Scott Farnsworth.

The following is from their How to Build a Purposeful Trust Practice brochure.

It Starts with a Purposeful Conversation™

Given an opportunity, most clients are interested in deeper conversations around the impact of their wealth on their children, grandchildren, and favorite causes. They want to discus the “How much is enough?” and “How much is too much?” questions. They want to know how to pass on more than money. They want their wealth to be a blessing to those they love and not a crip­pling handicap.

Purposeful Conversations provide a simple, enjoyable, and gratifying process for helping clients think deeply about the significant issues underlying their most important estate planning deci­sions. From their answers, we can discern the real purposes behind their planning and we can glean the words to express their purposes, hopes, and dreams to trustees and beneficiaries. The clients’ own words and stories are the best source for the name of the trust, for the lessons and wisdom that should inform trust decision, and for the bedrock principles that should guide the trust through uncharted waters. With their words and their stories in hand, we’re prepared to start creating Purposeful Trusts.

The Seven Secrets of Purposeful Trust Planning

We have discovered the seven keys that open the door to a beautiful and meaningful new world of planning for us and our clients.

Secret #1: Focus—The estate planning process is robust and engaging when it focuses primarily on the clients’ deepest hopes, dreams, and purposes.

Secret #2: Purpose—The trust itself is infused with life and energy when the clients’ own words are used to express the rich human purposes of the trust.

Secret # 3: Name—The clients’ name for the trust can be a succinct and powerful expression of their fondest hopes and dreams for the trust and its beneficiaries.

Secret #4: Guidance—Directions based on the clients’ wisdom and life-lessons and written in the clients’ own words can guide the trust to achieve its grandest purposes.

Secret #5: Heirlooms—When a gift of tangible personal property includes the cli­ents’ story and the item’s background, it turns an object into a priceless treasure.

Secret #6: Gratitude—Expressions of appreciation and an attitude of gratitude in givers and receivers can turn transfers into gifts and financial riches into true wealth.

Secret #7: Principles—Statements of the clients’ guiding bedrock principles can provide pole star and compass in navigating the trust through an unpredictable future.

How might you begin to capture The Purpose of your clients’ estate plans?

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Filling from the Fount of a Fire Hydrant

Posted by on September 21, 2009 in Family Wealth, Financial Planning | 0 comments

Last week I learned that approximately 80% of all wealth transfers fail by the 3rd generation. Why? Because financial and estate planning typically start with the method instead of the purpose.

At the Masters Level Intensive on Purposeful PlanningTM, I learned that there is another way. It’s the way I was looking for, but did not know existed, back when I was a financial advisor. It’s an approach that truly lets the money follow the life and not the other way around.

My brain is still marinating in all the information received. It was an awesome and inspiring week. Over the next few weeks, I will be highlighting insights and information from the Intensive, and asking you – are you ready? “The questions are coming.”

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Posted by on September 14, 2009 in Family Wealth, Musings | 0 comments

By the time this posts, I’ll be in Colorado for Purposeful PlanningTM’s Masters Level Intensive Training Program. The recommendation to attend came out of a phone conversation with Courtney Pullen, a well-known and well-respected family wealth counselor. I had contacted Courtney to see how he came to develop this specialty, and to see how I, too, might continue the process of utilizing the skills and experiences of my first career, in wealth management, in my second career as a licensed professional counselor. Courtney recommended the Intensive as the best next step in this process.

His description of the program deeply resonated with my passions for philanthropy, legacy, and authentic living. But since I launched my private practice earlier this year, its training budget is not yet in line with the cost of traveling to and attending such a program.

A firm believer in “it never hurts to ask,” I inquired of Courtney if scholarships were available. He was not sure but knew Barb Culver could answer this question for me.

In a matter of days, I got the glorious news that the four faculty members had come together and offered to sponsor my attendance, so that the majority of my tuition would be covered.

I cannot express how humbling the experience was. To have 4 individuals, who have never met me – and only one which has ever spoken to me – offer such a generous gift so that I could take advantage of such a wonderful and timely opportunity, is amazing. I am filled with gratitude. That is why, in the most public way I know how, I want to offer my most sincere thanks to the Purposeful PlanningTM Faculty:

Barbara A. Culver, CFP, CLU, ChFC, AEP

Terry Hunt, EdD

Courtney Pullen, MA, LPC

John A. Warnick, Esq.

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