Effective Wealth – Legal and Strategic Considerations

alvinIn my first piece on effective wealth, I laid out…

  • Individual wealth => 5 to 10 years cost of living
  • Generational wealth => 10 to 25 years cost of living
  • Multi-generational wealth => 25 to 40 years cost of living
  • Surplus (excess?) wealth => beyond 40 years cost of living

We hold our individual wealth in Living Trusts – these have the benefit of being fully revocable (assets in and out easily) and transparent to the IRS (easy for taxes and administration).

TIP – five years cost of living in a debt-free balance sheet will change your life and make you far less susceptible to corruption and influence. Once you hit ten years cost of living (in a debt free balance sheet) then you should consider cutting expenses and working part time. At a minimum, 5-10 years worth of wealth should trigger a sabbatical to consider personal wellness and how you allocate time.

Generational wealth is held in an irrevocable Grantor Trust that benefits my spouse and kids. I can’t get the assets back nor can any creditor or petitioner. In my lifetime, I retain the obligation to pay taxes on the trust as well as the ability to swap assets in/out for fair consideration. Admin is about the same as managing a partnership/LLC with similar assets/earnings.

TIP – once you are nearing 20 years cost of living in a debt-free balance sheet you are close to the breakout point where you can stop working, forever. Now is the time to shift towards personal wellness!

Multi-generational wealth – this is small part of my family balance sheet, because I followed my advice at each of the above segments. We use a Private Trust Company (in a state without income tax) that oversees a trust that benefits my descendants. We also use 529 (college) accounts.

TIP – the first time you realize that you might be making money for your adult children STOP and undertake a life review that focuses on how you allocate time and personal wellness.

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What does all this cost? Charging market rates for my work, I oversee the structure for less than $5,000 per annum. Living Trusts/Will were $5,000 to set up. Grantor Trust was $5,000. Private Trust Company and Family Trust was $10,000. These are Boulder, not New York, rates.

How does this give you peace of mind? My personal assets are the smallest of any adult in my family tree. By value, I own less than 1% of the above structure. I am free to give my family the gift of service.

I’ve said what needs to be said.

I’ve done what needs to be done.

I’m free to focus on loving those that love me.


 

The legal and tax consequences of an error in your family structure can be severe. Take expert, local advice. Nothing on this site should ever be considered professional advice.

Effective Wealth – Due Diligence Results

tulipsThis series started with a definition of effective wealth and a due diligence exercise for your family.

I’ll share the best tips that I received from my due diligence work:

A general liability umbrella policy can be an effective way to insure against ruin – in my life, hosting events (where athletes might die) was the source of my greatest liability. Due to my other insurance coverages, $5,000 per annum bought me $5,000,000 of coverage.

Have an expert read your insurance contract to ensure you’re covered for your key risks. I’ve reviewed draft policy documents that specifically ruled out the only reason I was buying the policy!

Paying $5,000 per annum got me thinking that there might be a better way to structure my life. There is a better way and I’ll share my family legal structure in a future post.

Hosting athletes is a low-margin business and my need for multiple insurance policies greatly reduced the profitability of the events. So I handed the events off and removed myself from their promotion and management.

In speaking with successful families, three things stood out.

#1 – the advice to share information widely and control the structure narrowly. As much as possible the family is involved and consulted on family matters. However, not more than two individuals from each generation are involved in governance. Write out the process for a family member to become a fiduciary, or trustee.

#2 – each generation must decide their own values. It’s impossible for elders of the past to influence third and fourth generation family members. The best tip here is a reminder that no matter what you do, what you decide, what you structure… there will be aspects of life that you find disappointing – in yourself, in your spouse and in your kids.

#3 – young family members should be given the opportunity to learn from mistakes early in life. No family member should be given the opportunity to bring down the entire family and individuals should experience the impact of their poor decisions.

Family Legal Structure

Was chatting with a doctor buddy and ran through a potential legal structure for an American family that contains one, or more, high earners.

It goes like this (picture at the bottom)…

Step One: Once you get married, you split the family balance sheet in half.

Step Two: As you have kids you:

  • set up 529 accounts for each kid 
  • set up minor accounts for each kid

Gift into kids 529 and minor accounts as desired and subject to gifting rules. 

Step Three: Main wage earner, often this is spouse with greatest potential for adverse legal judgements, gifts some, or all, of balance sheet to an irrevocable Grantor Trust that benefits other spouse and kids. Note – irrevocable. You can insert clause that spouses need to be together for a spouse to benefit else kids only. Look into lifetime gift and generation skipping tax exemptions for Settlor of the Grantor Trust. Never gift capital that you might need in your lifetime.

Step Four: Both spouses hold residual assets in name of revocable living trusts. Wills are structured to flow assets to Living Trusts. This makes it easier for your survivors to administer your affairs.

Step Five: Dynasty Trust receives any elder generation inheritance or gifting. This is to avoid taking capital directly that one generation is likely to pass to their kids or grandkids. Consult an expert about generation skipping taxes.

Step Six: All wills and living trusts flow funds to Dynasty Trust eventually.

Capacity to create, and implications of, the above structure vary by jurisdiction so take professional advice. This is a gross simplification but will point you, or your professional adviser, in the right direction.

A picture of the structure follows…

Family Legal Structure

This shows why people call the estate tax a voluntary tax and one way families structure around tax.