The Human Elements And Your Legacy
She Thought She Helped Build The Legacy of a Loving and Caring Family…
Until Her Husband Passed Away
You may be familiar with legacy stories like this one… It’s about a woman we know and is also an example of her family’s astonishing behavior. That speaks for itself. Your life is different I’m sure, but you’ll still benefit from reading this and the perspectives it delivers. It will help you.
Steve and Eileen were together and married for more than forty years; his second marriage, her first. They tied the knot despite the fact that Steve had custody and needed to bring four preschool children from his first wife to reside with them. They never got to have a honeymoon.
As planned, Eileen began her ‘new life’ as a wife while also taking on a maternal role for four very young kids at the same time. From single gal to running a household and family-of-six, literally overnight.
The type of challenge only a saint would accept willingly.
So the little ones, four permanent family members, grew up with Steve and Eileen. From skinned knees through adulthood, and everything in between, was Eileen’s job, she taking over the helm of the family. Through ‘thick and thin’, always there, doing whatever it took.
Even becoming “Mom” before very long…
And Eileen was a good Mom too, truly taking wonderful care of those kids. She raised them, taught them, loved them, hugged them, worried about them, empowered by all to discipline when necessary too. Ensuring that they made it to their schools and other activities, guided them through life; the same things all marvelous, faithful mothers do. Every day.
The only role she never could play was the biological one. But other than that, Steve and Eileen were a strong team who produced an active, loving, happy, seemingly grounded and close family. The parents were perfect for each other and good models for the youngsters. The great life.
Steve was rock-solid too. The kind of person you’d consider to be “a good man.” Hard working, productive, always busy and on-the-go. He was a company builder, not home much, a terrific provider.
Years passed, and with much praise due to Eileen, ‘their’ kids advanced, eventually becoming of age themselves; leaving home one-by-one, venturing into their own grown-up situations; three off to college, two graduated, all four married, careers, children of their own. The works.
Developing personally, evolving, growing, model citizens as far as people could tell. Pretty much what you’d imagine and expect of kids coming from a healthy household environment and upbringing.
The family structure has now grown to three generations: Mom, Dad, four adult children and seven grandchildren. Eileen loved them all, very much…and felt that they loved her too. Then things went downhill.
Sadly, as Steve advanced into his seventies, health problems began setting in. He, becoming seriously ill, passing away fairly soon and somewhat suddenly after that. Then, after he departed, something very strange, unexpected and dramatic occurred.
An entirely new, hard-to-predict, brutal dynamic was born…
Attitudes, loyalties, even levels of caring and love towards Eileen disappeared, seemingly overnight. An abrupt shift that nobody, not Eileen, not Steve, could’ve foreseen; never in their wildest nightmares.
Inexplicable at the time, the same children Eileen devoted her best years to, now no longer wanted anything to do with her. None wanted her involved in any part of their lives. Nor was she allowed to see and spend time with the grandchildren, who she also loved dearly.
She was banished, relegated to “persona non grata“… And it appears to be forever.
As it turned out, Steve was a smart man too. And a very good business builder. So good, that after he passed away, the family was somewhat startled to find out that the company he formed and other collected assets were value assessed at over $15,000,000 by the Internal Revenue Service.
But either by Steve’s direction or other factors that haven’t been explained, Steve’s after life ‘plan’ was poorly conceived, hadn’t been updated for decades, insufficient, filled with poorly drafted language and a convoluted distribution pattern that made little sense. Especially for Eileen.
Apparently in the name of opportunity and greed, the children have banded together and taking the position that what was documented must be what Steve desired. Of course, this is a very convenient position to embrace, which also enables them to justify their own selfishness. So even though Eileen was Steve’s wife, she’s been left out almost entirely and has been contesting the plan in court for years. Still is.
I know, this is crazy, difficult to believe or even imagine, but I’ve seen behavior quite like this countless times. Sure, it seems like there’s something, or some things, that we don’t know about Steve and Eileen’s story. I don’t believe there’s much that we don’t know. Steve’s death changed everything, including love within a family.
NOTE: Greed and gluttony are more of a factor than you might expect and always plays somewhat of a role. Please try to erase the “not my family” thought from your mind. It’s vital to anticipate and plan for the absolute worst. Money and other valuable properties require safeguards to defend against abuse. Human beings are certainly fickle, but they are no match for a well conceived and executed estate strategy.
We never met Steve, so didn’t know him and weren’t involved with his ‘planning’ at all. But we do know that he loved Eileen (apparently the kids never really did) and needed better advice about possibilities than he knew. Not just on the hard business side of matters, but also on the people – the human being side.
He certainly never would’ve wanted the suffering and agony that Eileen experiences daily. She devoted her entire adult life to raising a family. That same family then dismissed her when given the chance; for money. And all preventable but permitted due to a careless, sloppy plan and shoddy legal language.
We do know Eileen. To say that her existence since Steve’s death has been a hell-on-earth is accurate. Losing a husband is hard enough but when the people you raised as if your own reject you entirely, that is devastating. She cries when she thinks about it. Every day.
To be candid, Eileen’s pain and suffering is Steve’s fault, but he didn’t know better.
Here’s the problem:
My industry is filled with certified and competent attorneys, accountants, wealth managers and financial advisors of various types. I respect the ones who do a great job.
But facts don’t lie: research has established that 70% of estate (wealth) transitions fail. Only 30% succeed. And that’s reflective of only one facet, the “hard business” side. Clearly, important elements are still missing in some current approaches to long term estate protection and preservation.
You may have noticed that when public figures pass away, how frequently you hear about the problems: flawed strategies, vulnerabilities, other exposures, mind-boggling taxation judgments, omissions, lack of anticipation, probate nightmares, internal family devastation and battles, major oversights, on and on…
Most of them thought, even “knew”, that they had received correct advice and taken the appropriate measures.
In so many cases, measures that are taken fail…
Estate planning is the conventional phrase that’s most commonly used, but it doesn’t reflect what’s at stake very well. Better words for your perception would be to think of it as legacy preservation planning. That does a much better job for purposes of definition for your mind. It is also what The Five Dimensions For Estate Maximization are and what execution of them accomplishes for you and your legacy, for your family and for the entire world.
Getting this correct isn’t anywhere as difficult as it’s made out to be. But getting it right does necessitate using the correct methods and doing the right work.
Not just administering the various instruments and vehicles, but how they serve your wishes and fit with how you want things to be for your legacy and for your heirs. The overall family structure, types of people involved, levels of maturity and capabilities, their habits, other problems; some foreseeable, some hard to imagine (like Eileen’s) that must be anticipated ahead of time.
Is it THAT difficult to get this right?
NOTE: *Estate transition failure is defined as “involuntary loss of control of the assets.”
No, it isn’t incredibly difficult to get it right, but the list of failure from lack of thoughtful and anticipatory type guidance is lengthy; much longer than shown here:
Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini, Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Anna Nicole Smith, Jerry Garcia, Marlon Brando, Florence Griffith Joyner, Chief Justice Warren Burger, John Denver, Michael Crichton, Steve McNair, Marilyn Monroe, Steve and Eileen, many more….
Extraordinary levels of wealth and estate values ruined in various degrees in their own unique ways. Usually predictable and easily resolvable. Often incredibly rudimentary.
The unexpected must be anticipated ahead of time; before it becomes a factor:
- Children, grandchildren or other heirs divorcing, usually unexpectedly
- Lack of love, lurking internal family clashes and power battles
- Money, other assets falling into the hands of heirs’ debt creditors
- Changes of heirs’ circumstances (health, death, bankruptcies, other financial)
- Assets falling to the hands of ex in-laws and their families
- Heirs’ substance abuse problems, gambling or other destructive habits
- Otherwise spoiled, irresponsible and “entitled” family members or other heirs
- Financially immature heirs not fully prepared to handle and manage wealth
- Heirs tendencies to make bad business deals, other types of investment mistakes
- Uncommunicative family members and other forms of hostilities
- Influential spouses of heirs creating varieties of dissent
- Desire to guard against creation of “trust fund children”
- Wealth given away, sometimes arbitrarily, for “philanthropic” purposes
- Asset base devastated by attorneys, courts and otherwise avoidable legal costs
- Assets needing to be sold to pay estate taxes unnecessarily
Again, that still relates to the hard-business, protecting assets side of wealth transition. When the personal, human-being, emotional side is entered into the equation, the failing percentage rate increases more; to as much as 80+%.
How can this be? Doesn’t it seem unnecessary? It is. Typically, failure occurs because those responsible didn’t anticipate and consider all of the (big picture) elements.
During my years of experience, I’ve come to understand why ‘mishaps’ occur. Estate transfers that fail haunt me because they’re almost always unnecessary. Unforced errors.
Over time it’s become a personal cause for me to eliminate the devastation and suffering that occurs when all aspects of a person’s planning aren’t considered and properly arranged for. There are many ways estate and inheritance transitions can go very wrong. That’s sad because the failures are almost always unnecessary and preventable. Hard-to-predict life changing circumstances are to be anticipated. There need not be devastation, or unintended outcomes.
Kubler Financial is an Estate Maximization Company. Its purpose is to address design for all areas of an estate and ensure that its business side is properly protected: both during and after life and the people side (family situation, dynamics, etc.) is also addressed with potential for ‘havoc’ eliminated.
I’m a strong advocate of helping people to better control the wealth they’ve created, even after death. We anticipate and prepare for possibilities not always evident to the eye at a particular time.
Please be extra thoughtful and active regarding what you’ve created and the overall strategy you have for it all after departure. Things change, usually unexpectedly, but possible outcomes can still be anticipated.
I welcome you to contact me to discuss the approach that supports all aspects of your situation, current concerns you may have about what might occur, and what you want to happen, while you can control it.
Understandably, there’s the business side that typically receives all of the attention: estate protection, estate taxes, the IRS, insurance planning, trusts, assets distribution, etc. Preparation shouldn’t end there.
There’s what I’ve written about here, and more, to the personal and emotional side of estate maximization. Consider also: other family dynamics (extremely important), heirs preparation, how to flow your wealth through numerous generations, philanthropy, etc…
Certain dimensions are regularly ignored or missed, causing unintended outcomes that deliver unimaginable levels of agony and suffering for those we love, people we would never want to harm.
For Eileen, no longer a young lady and despite the heartbreak, extreme loneliness and dealing with probate affairs for three years, things have turned towards the positive. She now has a boyfriend of quality, a man who has brought some joy back into her life again and is helping her rediscover her inner happiness. She truly deserves that.
Sometimes things most overlooked, those intangibles which hold the most importance for us, are the ones that get lost. It can have both a lot and, at the same time, little to do with money.
Often the most troubling of all, this is an area where unintended, but emotionally severe consequences are widespread. Understanding, empathizing with and addressing your family’s dynamics and individuals regarding mindsets about affluence, feelings, levels of control, relationships with each other, rivalries, keeping the family together and alleviating the potential for personal suffering, agony, depression, other forms of devastation and even abandonment by members due to an estate plan’s lack of forethought and prediction. People themselves, their personalities, characters and value systems (low levels of integrity, loyalty, honesty, etc.) are a large cause for complications. Poorly thought-out estate plans cause incredible levels of emotional suffering. An ability for you to anticipate this dimension as a future problem area is key.
To a large degree we are defined by what we pass on to next generations…
Legacy is defined by Webster as “something received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”. It also includes how someone is remembered and what contributions they made while they were alive.
Legacy is about sharing what you’ve learned as well as sharing what you’re earned.
We must begin thinking like a river if we’re to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations. It will speak about you long after you are gone. Live for today and leave a legacy for tomorrow.
An extreme portion of your wealth could be relinquished to unfairly support too much of the general welfare of the country. It occurs in the form of estate taxation which then becomes social capital. You may or may not yourself be a philanthropist, but paying estate taxes forces heirs to participate in an “involuntary philanthropy”; the recipients being federal and state governments, where waste is routine.
There are opportunities to purposefully plan otherwise, but you must get them right. Inexplicably and surprisingly, many do not.
The time to maximize your estate is now. You shouldn’t wait until a storm is near.
Many of affluent estates have paid little or no estate taxes as their wealth has passed from generation to generation.
Estate taxes are not mandatory. But are collected from estates of people who failed to understand how to protect and strategize for them while alive.
With creative planning you can reorganize your family wealth and simply “opt out” of paying so much social capital to the IRS in taxes. By exercising this option you can take advantage of the opportunities to transfer your family wealth to your children and grandchildren. The family wealth leverage achieved is both incredibly powerful and extremely satisfying for them, as you have chosen.
Estate maximization is considerably more than just understanding wills and trusts. Wills and trusts are tools, not strategies. Merely drafting and signing a few documents and hoping your family, other heirs or chosen causes will receive what you’ve endowed could fall short; often lacking greatly.
Even beginning the process is frequently postponed because the Clients do not have answers to their questions of what to do or how to do it.
Carve your epitaph on hearts. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the effects of how they feel about you.
You are doing well in your life. Get this part right too.
When examined closely, estate taxes are brutal, cruel and inhumane. A family loses a loved one, then also faces losing a large part of its finances. Homes and houses, businesses, farms, other properties or financial accounts often must be sold or used to pay the estate taxes and even attorneys fees too.
There is an infinite value in legacy.
Let’s face it: none of us will likely be able to avoid death. And just because you can’t take it with you doesn’t mean you should let the government have it.
Learning from the estate and wealth mistakes of others is a valuable resource.
If you want to protect and dictate where your property goes, then you need an estate maximization plan…
I’m easy to reach and speak with and look forward to sharing more about our company and Estate Maximization with you.
You really can keep it in your family.
P.S. The time you spend with me will be rewarded by ideas and perspectives that will help enable your family to preserve its wealth long into the future. It’s your wealth. You earned it and you deserve to keep it in your family!
We don’t circumvent and we work well with in-place legal, accounting and all other advisor team members whenever requested or otherwise professionally and ethically appropriate.