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Prenuptial Agreements

Yesterday, as I read some more in Charles W. Collier’s Wealth in Families, I came across a section where he was interviewing Dr. Lee Hausner, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist and author of Children of Paradise: Successful Parenting for Prosperous Families. Collier quoted Hausner as saying,

I believe in a prenuptial agreement because healthy relationships should not be based on finances. A prenuptial agreement is a business contract, and . . . families should protect the business or financial assets of the family. [A prenuptial agreement] protects wealth that was created before the marriage. Signing a prenuptial clearly indicates that money is not the motivation for this marriage. . . .

Families of wealth should talk about prenuptials from the time of their children’s adolescence. They need to explain the importance of the wealth protection philosophy of the family and how this will enable the financial wealth to grow for future generations as well as providing lifetime benefits to the current generation. Family money should have nothing to do with the love between two individuals who wish to marry.

When discussing this idea with future in-laws, it is important to emphasize that, even with a prenuptial, everyone will benefit from this type of financial wealth preservation. There can be trips, vacation homes, educational trusts for children, and retirement security, for example. . . .

Hausner’s comments reminded me of some issues we faced in our family a few years ago when our daughter was about to be married.

The idea that we might need to think about documents like prenuptials had never crossed our minds. But there I was, a couple of months prior to the wedding, holding our annual corporate meetings, and I happened to mention that our daughter was soon to be married. Our estate planning and structures attorney immediately said, “She and her husband-to-be need to sign a prenuptial agreement.”

I was shocked.

Everything I had ever heard about prenuptials said they were simply and merely, if you will, “plans for divorce,” the ethical equivalent of accessories to a crime.

As we talked about the idea, our attorney explained things in a way that I can understand, and I came away with the conviction that he was right: Our kids, as beneficial shareholders of our family business, really do need to have prenuptial agreements, and the need for prenups is there with or without divorce. Instead, the creation of a prenuptial agreement ought to be viewed as a form of business insurance. And for well-meaning couples who enter marriage with open hearts and good faith, the presence of a prenuptial should bear no more ethical weight than the purchase of property and casualty insurance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Joe the Plumber, Max the Plumber . . . and a Legacy

Of course, we’re all familiar with “Joe the Plumber,” the icon of the McCain presidential campaign for the last few weeks. Dr. Stanley Fish, a professor of law at Florida International University, Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote a moving tribute to–or memoir, character sketch, brief biography of–his father that appeared on yesterday’s New York Times Opinion page. The article was called “Max the Plumber.”

When I got finished with it, I wondered: What’s the legacy I will leave to my children and grandchildren when it comes to the stories they know of me and the images that will stick in their minds? What will they say of me when I’m gone? . . . And can I do anything that might help improve their understanding of who I am and what I wanted to be all about? Read the rest of this entry »

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200-Year Plan – How to construct a plan – 1a

ADDENDUM as of 2/5/09: While I am still excited about the materials I discuss in this post, it is with great sadness that I feel compelled to note I have discovered there are reasons for caution with respect to the sources referenced herein. [Indeed, though I don't think our daughter, who is mentioned in this post, was aware of the depth of the issues, clearly, she was "on the alert." --I guess I'm suggesting you, too, should probably be on the alert.] With respect to Vision Forum Ministries and Doug Phillips, I call your attention to the series of articles at Ministry Watchman and Jen’s Gems. And with respect to Geoff Botkin, see Who is Geoffrey Botkin? at the Under Much Grace blog.

[Continued discussion of Vision Forum Ministries' program titled The 200 Year Plan: A Practicum on Multi-Generational Faithfulness.]

Start talking about a 200-year plan, and you may find yourself faced with some major opposition! Here’s the story of my first opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

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200-Year Plan – How to construct a plan – 1

ADDENDUM as of 2/5/09: While I am still excited about the materials I discuss in this post, it is with great sadness that I feel compelled to note I have discovered there are reasons for caution with respect to the sources referenced herein. With respect to Vision Forum Ministries, I call your attention to the series of articles at Ministry Watchman and Jen’s Gems. And with respect to Geoff Botkin, see Who is Geoffrey Botkin? at the Under Much Grace blog.

[Continued discussion of Vision Forum Ministries' program titled The 200 Year Plan: A Practicum on Multi-Generational Faithfulness.]

Sadly, the Vision Forum CD set I purchased provides a sanitized (indeed, in my opinion, overly-sanitized–to the point of being useless) PDF view of the spreadsheet Mr. Botkin showed his audience as he discussed how he built his family’s 200-year plan. (The spreadsheet displayed in the CD shows no headings, no titles, no data at all. It consists, solely, of a grid with a few of the rows and columns colored in. Period. That’s it!)

After persistent attempts to get the company to provide me an example of what Mr. Botkin’s original audience saw, a member of their customer service department wrote back, “The slides originally contained personal information which has since been removed at the request of the speaker. I apologize for any inconvenience that you have experienced and I am sorry that I am currently unable to help you further in this area.”

To their credit, they offered me a refund for the entire CD because this one set of PDFs wasn’t up to par with what I would have hoped for. But I wanted the information more than a refund! So I attempted to contact Mr. Botkin directly in order to acquire a readable example of the spreadsheet and at least an exemplary sample of the data he had developed for his family’s 200-year plan. I was thrilled when he graciously provided what I asked for. I am only now beginning to work through the implications of what he showed me.

Rather than burdening you here with a full rundown of what Botkin sent me; indeed, considering how little I think I really understand the plan, I am numbering this post as #1 in a series. I have no idea how many more posts will come nor how quickly. But let me at least begin working through with you where I am going with our family’s 200-year plan.

*****
Perhaps the first and foremost most important feature of creating a 200-year plan as I’m urging, here: it creates a sense of time.

Botkin says he first acquired his own “long view” sense of time when he was a young man and Read the rest of this entry »

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Estate plan documents: what are your goals?

A lot of attorneys, it seems, assume what your goals are when you walk into their office to have them draft your final documents: You want them to save as many taxes as possible, and pass on as much of your estate to your children–your heirs–as possible. But, of course, your goals may go far beyond these things. And, in fact–as is the case with my wife and me–you may not wants to pass everything along to your heirs.

It’s always helpful, when you walk into your attorney’s office, if you already have your goals clearly in mind. To help clarify some of these issues for you, consider the following list. What’s on your mind, and how important are they to you? (If two of these goals compete, which one do you want to “win”?) Read the rest of this entry »

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My answer to our legacy planner’s draft Family Wealth Letter of Intent

What information can help an estate planning/legacy planning professional create the best plan for you? A document like this could help!

As I noted a month ago, our legacy planner provided a draft “Family Wealth Letter of Intent” designed to summarize in written form what Sarita and I currently understand God’s plans to be for the remaining time we have on earth, and to serve as a guide to our family and advisors to help them understand our life priorities and the things we want to do for our children and for God’s Kingdom . . . during the remainder of our life on earth . . . and beyond.

I indicated I was not happy with the paper as our planner had drafted it. It wasn’t “us.” Honestly, it overemphasized things we would have emphasized far less (and maybe not mentioned at all); it used words and phrases that we would never use; it failed to express the things that we most highly value; and it said several things that, frankly, were just plain untrue.

So I knew I had to rewrite it. And I finally finished my rewrite today. As I wrote a month ago, so now: I share this with you “primarily because I want you to see the full process we are going through. Sometimes the process is easy; often, I’m afraid, it is–or is going to be–very difficult. Most importantly, I think you need to understand that legacy planning is an iterative process.”

So here is my/our “latest iteration.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Preliminary draft “Family Wealth Letter of Intent”

Want to get a basic idea of what information might prove helpful in setting up a good legacy plan? Check out the following draft Family Wealth Letter of Intent.

Our legacy planner, having spent 17 hours interviewing us in detail on the first and second of this month, sent us the following draft “Family Wealth Letter of Intent” [FWLOI] today based on notes taken during our discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

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