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Category Archives: Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning

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Designing Trusts for a Surviving Spouse’s Remarriage

Posted in Blended Families, Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Trust Administration
In the 90s, when the Internet was new and Bill Clinton still had more tomorrows than yesterdays, the estate tax exemption was $600,000, an amount even Thomas Piketty might think was rather low. In that sort of environment, credit shelter trust planning for married couples felt almost mandatory. We live in a very different world today.… Continue Reading

Designing Incentive Trusts: Adam Smith and The Wealth of Beneficiaries

Posted in Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Trust Administration
Certainly one of Adam Smith’s core insights in The Wealth of Nations was that incentives matter. I believe examples are everywhere about how Smith was correct – ranging from California water shortages and student loan debt, to tax policy and white collar crime. If incentives matter in these areas, shouldn’t they matter in designing trusts that maximize successful outcomes for… Continue Reading

Design Factors for Your Family’s Trust

Posted in Asset Protection, Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Trust Administration
These are interesting years in estate planning for families in the Upper Middle and Lower Upper Classes. As a high estate tax exemption has reduced the tax-driven imperatives for using trusts to hold inheritances, non-tax applications of trusts come to the fore. As non-tax issues in trust design assume greater relative importance, what factors should… Continue Reading

Design Options for Education Trusts

Posted in Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Trust Administration
I often work with “Wealth Creators” who have built substantial wealth themselves, most notably as founders of companies or early-stage employees at startups. I also work with “Inheritors” managing wealth built in prior generations for the benefit of descendants. Although every instance has unique aspects, in general, I find that Wealth Creators have conflicted feelings about what being… Continue Reading

Avoiding Family Fights In Estate Administration

Posted in Blended Families, Estate Administration, Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Estate administration can be a frustrating experience for families and their advisors, because it’s an occasion when families fight. Sometimes the fights are necessary, and unavoidable. Many other times, to a detached observer, the fights seem silly. Whether justified (or not), whether necessary (or not), conflict makes estate administration cost more (even when litigation doesn’t… Continue Reading

Regional Economic Risk and Your Personal “Plan B”

Posted in Business Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what a “Corporate Event” at Humana might mean for Louisville. A rosy analysis I’ve heard suggests that Aetna might buy Humana, and then move its headquarters here. We’d all love that outcome (sorry, Hartford). Other Humana transactions may have collateral effects on our city that are to put… Continue Reading

Managing Risk: Inheritance Strategies for the Upper Middle Class

Posted in Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Long Term Care Insurance, Retirement Planning
Several months ago I read Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times by Marianne Cooper, a Stanford sociologist. Cooper’s chapters on the extremely professionally successful upper middle class and their project of “doing security” were particularly interesting. These families were operating an increasingly unstable career and social environment, and devoted tremendous energy to enhancing their own financial security.… Continue Reading

Managing Volatility: Inheritance Strategies for the Lower Upper Class

Posted in Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
This week I’ve been reading Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life. That’s risky for me to admit, as surveys show the female/male ratio of “Janeites” runs about 25:1. Mockery from readers may be unavoidable, and even deserved. I think one of the most interesting aspects of Tomalin’s biography is how it shows the Austens and… Continue Reading

Managing Abundance: Inheritance Strategies of the Upper Class

Posted in Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Broadly speaking, I have observed Upper Class families use three types of inheritance strategies: deferral, ad hoc gifts, and income streams. Deferral is a traditional strategy: pay to raise and educate your child, and then give them not very much (if anything) until they inherit as your survivor. Ad hoc gifts are transfers for a… Continue Reading

Overfunded 529 Plans: Avoiding Too Much of a Good Thing

Posted in Income Tax Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
The expense of college for children and grandchildren is a troubling issue for almost all of my clients. I think this is because at an instinctual level, long before crunching any numbers, clients know what the charts below show: college costs have gone truly exponential in the last one and a half generations, far outstripping… Continue Reading

A Critical Look at Roth IRAs: The Marshmallow Is Not Always What It Seems

Posted in Income Tax Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Retirement Planning
In the late 60s and early 70s at Bing Nursery School on Stanford’s campus, Walter Mischel conducted the famous “Marshmallow Experiment” on delayed gratification. Preschoolers were offered a choice between one marshmallow or cookie right away, or two if they waited about 15 minutes. When researchers tracked down study participants as adults, they found that the… Continue Reading

Exercising Stock Options and Selling Shares: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Posted in Business Planning, Income Tax Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
If you have been working since the late ‘90s, you have probably collected some great stories about exercising stock options and other equity-based compensation. Some are unqualified success stories, like the time my college roommate’s father pulled up outside the college dorm in 1998 in a brand-new zippy BMW convertible (top down, naturally), and told… Continue Reading

Noncompetition Agreements and Your Career: On the Beach When You Don’t Want to Be

Posted in Asset Protection, Business Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Noncompetition agreements are a common fact of life for many of the mid- and senior-level executives I represent in estate planning, and for business owner clients with employees. Because noncompetes are such important features of the life cycle estate and financial planning landscape, I sat down with my colleague Rebecca Weis to learn more about… Continue Reading

Business Startup Issues That May Find You – Even if You Don’t Go Looking For Them

Posted in Asset Protection, Business Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
In my practice, I have found that a majority of my clients who create significant wealth do so through ownership of a private business or a concentrated stock position in a publicly traded company. What that means for you is that if you haven’t yet started a business or taken an ownership position in one,… Continue Reading

Deciding to Rent or Buy Your House: A Tale of Two Cities

Posted in Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
People often decide between renting or buying a place to live based on preferences and instinct: What do you want to do? If they are incrementally more analytical, they may explore “how much house” they can “afford”. This approach is grounded in capabilities. What can you do? I think the most useful approach to important financial… Continue Reading

Should You Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

Posted in Asset Protection, Blended Families, Estate Planning, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Whether or not to get a prenuptial agreement before getting married isn’t an easy decision. The advisability of a prenup turns in large part on whether the default law that will govern the marriage if it ends by death or divorce is agreeable. If you can live with the default rules, a prenup might not… Continue Reading

Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning for Early Adulthood

Posted in Insurance, Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Life Insurance, Retirement Planning
I believe effective life cycle estate and financial planning is anchored in the Quadrant of Facts, Forecasts, Life Stages, and Unexpected Events. Over the past several weeks, ten posts covered a lot of territory about Facts and Forecasts. This is a pivot point at which we begin exploring planning issues in the first of several Life… Continue Reading

Protecting Your Personal Pension From Volatile Equity Markets

Posted in Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning, Retirement Planning
Our previous post explored a model of the cost of the promise you make to yourself to fund your retirement, but that model omitted a very important real-world risk: volatile equity markets. Most recently, the 2008 stock market crash changed many retirement plans for the worse. A 2009 study by the Urban Institute, “What the 2008 Stock… Continue Reading

Delayed Retirement Effects of Investment Costs and Behavioral Tendencies

Posted in Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Most people know (at least in the abstract) that choices have consequences. Choices you make to manage your behavioral tendencies (or not) and about your investment costs may have tremendous consequences for when you can retire. I built a model to explore the tradeoffs between retirement age, investment costs, and behavioral tendencies. Like any model,… Continue Reading

What Is Your Investor Personality Profile?

Posted in Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
Successful investing presents practical and emotional difficulties. Reducing those difficulties as much as possible turns on your answers to two questions: Do you believe markets are efficient? Can you manage your behavioral tendencies? After you have thoughtful answers to those two questions, it’s easier to make good decisions for you about choosing an investment style… Continue Reading

Avoid the Wolves of Wall Street When Forecasting Investment Returns

Posted in Life Cycle Estate and Financial Planning
We live in a world of nearly infinite, nearly free information. That includes financial information, commentary, journalism, and forecasts. Among this clutter, it can be very hard to decide what deserves attention, what’s worthwhile, and what to believe. Print, television, and Internet journalism thrives on readers and viewers. In a media landscape that is so… Continue Reading