Wealth planning


Wealth planning is the process of building, protecting, and transitioning wealth. It encompasses all areas of a person’s life, including tax, legacy, and business succession planning. These sensitive and complex issues often cause families to delay wealth planning as long as possible, but that becomes very risky. Studies have shown that up to 70% of wealthy families will lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90% will lose it by the third.1 By creating a solid plan and implementing it early, you can protect your family and life achievements, avoid unintended consequences, and have greater peace of mind.

When should I start the wealth transfer process?

When it comes to planning, it’s often said that the best time to start was yesterday, and the next best time is now. But in all seriousness, you’ll want to be prepared as soon as possible. The process can be long, complicated, and emotional, so the earlier you can begin, the better. Starting the conversation now, as a family, can help provide awareness of the responsibilities and pitfalls of wealth and instill the importance of financial education in future generations from a young age. That’ll maximize your chances of preserving your family’s wealth and legacy.

How should I get started?

Here are some basic documents and structures that will help lay the foundation for you to address some of the challenges presented by the wealth transfer process.

Last will and testament – This legal document disposes of your assets at death. It names an executor (or personal representative) to carry out your wishes, including the nomination of a guardian for any minor children.

Trust – At its core a trust is simply a legal relationship in which an owner (grantor) transfers assets (such as stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, artwork, insurance policies, etc.) to another party (trustee) who administers the assets for the benefit of other people or charity (beneficiaries). 

Durable power of attorney – This grants power to an agent to manage your assets during your lifetime (including while you’re incapacitated) and make financial decisions on your behalf. Lapses at your death, after which your executor or personal representative fills this role.

Healthcare proxy and living will – This grants power to an agent to make health care decisions during incapacity and provides guidance to agent on treatment and care, including withdrawal of life-sustaining support or avoiding extreme medical measures in certain situations

All of this doesn’t have to fall completely on you. In fact, engaging a team of advisors to help guide you through the process is critical. You must, however, start as early as possible. Hope is not a strategy; the best way to preserve your family’s wealth and legacy is with a sound and dynamic plan. 

I’ve started the process. Now what?


  1. Protecting wealth
  2. Protecting your family’s wealth isn’t always straightforward. Large claims – like rights disputes, court proceedings, and unpaid taxes – can show up unexpectedly, for one. Also, you may not have complete control over the timing of when your assets are liquidated, so sales proceeds could be lower than initially anticipated. Family members may also mismanage the assets they receive.

    From clearly defining what your assets are, how they are titled, how they will be distributed, and who will receive them, to setting up safeguards that limit the impact of unanticipated claims or bad timing, you’ll need to have a full plan in place to protect your wealth.

  3. Providing enough liquidity
  4. Transferring wealth can trigger big expenses. You might need to pay estate or gift taxes, repay outstanding loans, or reinvest in a family business. So it’s critical to anticipate those events and make sure that you (or your estate) will have enough cash on hand to address these costs.

  5. Working with complexity
  6. Wealth planning may involve various jurisdictions, tax implications, and legal battles – plus, you may face the unique challenges that come with owning illiquid things like art, aircraft, and digital assets. The political and economic environment can also present a variety of hurdles.

  7. Choosing what to do with the family business
  8. It’s important to decide whether to keep, sell, or expand the family business. But to do so, you should involve family members in key decision-making activities. They’ll need to understand the business first-hand and decide what role to take in it. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to clearly define who is responsible for what, who owns what, and which external parties should be involved.

  9. Thinking strategically about legacy
  10. It isn’t all about passing down wealth: it’s about passing down values too. You’ll want to clearly define the legacy you’ll be leaving to future generations, as well as the impact you’re aiming to have on society at large.

  11. Preserving harmony in the family
  12. The wealth transfer process can challenge your family relationships. It’s important to approach the process as a family, making sure that each member can express their thoughts and concerns. You might find it helpful to view wealth transfer as an opportunity to reflect on what wealth means to you, establish the values most important to your family, and understand the responsibilities that wealth brings.

Planning Checklist

  1. Does your family have a mission statement defining the overall purpose of your wealth?
  2. Does your entire family participate in most important decisions?
  3. Do all adult family members have the ability to participate in the management of the family’s assets?
  4. Do adult beneficiaries understand, and have they fully embraced, their future roles?
  5. Have adult beneficiaries reviewed the family’s estate plans and documents?
  6. Do your current wills, trusts, and other documents provide for distributions of assets based on the readiness of beneficiaries instead of their age?
  7. Does your family mission include creating incentives and opportunities for all beneficiaries?
  8. Are younger children or grandchildren encouraged to participate in philanthropic grant-making decisions?
  9. Do you consider family unity to be just as important as family financial strength?
  10. Does your family communicate well and meet regularly to discuss ongoing issues and potential changes?

If you answered “yes” to seven or more of these items, you are similarly situated to families who have successfully transitioned their wealth.  

Four to six “yes” answers indicates that a reasonable investment of time and effort could help your family ensure a successful wealth transition.  

Less than four “yes” answers suggests you have an incomplete plan. Failure to begin planning now could result in a challenging transition ahead.



Wealth planning is an iterative and lifelong process: the earlier you start, the better.

You’ll need to do many things to preserve your family’s wealth, like liquidity planning, business decision-making, and legacy building.

Your team of advisors can help you tackle each step and create a solid plan.