Wealth Management

Our family relationships and our feelings about money bear some interesting similarities. A lifetime of interactions with relatives, especially in a business environment, can create complex relationships with a range of strong emotions. We all have heard siblings talk about their childhood in ways that would make us think they were raised under separate roofs. Each individual is affected in unique ways by their interpretations of childhood events and the inevitable drama of youth.

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There are two aspects to transferring a business to children. Of course, there’s the technical aspect: transferring ownership in a tax-efficient manner and as part of a business continuity plan. There’s also the emotional aspect: preparing your children for the wealth and responsibilities that come with this very special family asset.

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The gravest threat preventing a family from passing along its wealth from one generation to the next is poor planning and management.

Creating significant family wealth is no small feat, and serious steps should be taken to ensure that wealth survives not only into the next generation, but also for future generations beyond that. Avoiding the outcome of "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," or the phenomenon whereby inheritors of wealth squander it before it reaches the fourth generation, requires discipline and vigilance.

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Studies show that the average American is one paycheck away from being on the streets, but it's not just the average American who can fail financially; wealthy families can fail too. Overspending, too much portfolio risk and lack of communication are among the main reasons families with a net worth of $30 million or more fail.

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The Voice of the Rising Generation: Family Wealth and Wisdom, by James E. Hughes Jr., Susan E. Massenzio and Keith Whitaker • Wiley/Bloomberg Press, 2014 • 146 pp., $40

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Wealth study reveals need for education

Wealthy people say they want to preserve their money for the long term, but most don't know how much they can afford to spend each year without risking depletion of their assets. So reports Merrill Lynch's Private Banking & Investment Group, which recently released a study of 171 U.S. consumers with $5 million or more in investable assets.

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Most family businesses and single family offices around the world are still dealing with the aftermath of the financial crisis. Many are confronting an interesting problem: a significant shift in allocation of the family’s total wealth between operating assets (the business or other mostly illiquid investments) and financial assets (the family’s liquid investment portfolio).

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From the moment the 2001 tax bill was enacted there was considerable uncertainty about what would happen come 2011, when the ten-year life-span of the 2001 law was scheduled to have run its course. Although it took Congress and the President until the third week of December 2010 to hammer out the rules, the changes to the federal estate tax and gift tax law made by the new 2010 tax bill represent a substantial liberalization of the law. This will give a big assist to many succession plans.

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Setting up a family office takes time and clear thinking, as many families who have one can tell you. It’s a time-consuming process, so it’s better to start thinking about it before you’re in the throes of selling a business and planning a major lifestyle change.

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The recently released Merrill-Capgemini World Wealth Report—conducted by New York-based Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, a unit of Bank of America Corporation, in partnership with Capgemini, a Paris-based consulting firm—provides a lot of data and color around the high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) markets. These insights provide a lens through which the financial community will examine its prior successes and failures and create agendas for future growth.

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