Have you seen the movie? James Garner, Drew Fuller, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Cobbs are among the stars who portray an inspiring film based on the novel by Jim Stovall...a story which we highly recommend!
Most families have some traces of “Stevens Family” characteristics. Admittedly, the Stevens family issues are a bit more dramatic. The rest of us don’t have so much money, for starters. Our children might not be quite so obsessed with things and pleasure. We don’t have the mansions, servants, or corrupted grandchildren. We’ve not lost a son in a plane crash. We don’t have business partners quite like Gus or Mr. Hamilton.
Still, the story teaches us much. We all can use a lesson on what is really important in life. A reminder to appreciate our current blessings may be in order. Perhaps we should reconsider how much we give…yet not soothe our conscience by merely giving money. We can each look for ways to give of ourselves and be a positive influence on those around us. When we want money, no amount satisfies; when we want what is worthwhile, we find it all around us.
Maybe this is the message for us all:
Life is not so much about what you own, but about what you value.
The impact of your estate on your loved ones will be significant. The larger your estate compared to what your children have, the larger the impact will be. It could be positive…or it could be negative. Red Stevens saw that his wealth would, by and large, have a negative impact on his family. He realized that they were not prepared to receive it. His will made this clear. Because he had been unable to effectively prepare the family for their inheritance before death, he exercised control from the grave.
For Red’s spoiled sons and daughter, he made sure that the management of their inheritance would be in the hands of those who knew how to preserve it. For his widowed daughter-in-law, he assured that her needs would be met by leaving money in a managed trust.
But Red hoped to change lives, too. So he made a last-ditch effort to transform Jason—the one in whom he saw real potential—into someone who would be capable of self-control, someone who would use whatever resources were available to him as a force for good. For Jason, Red established an incentive program to help him become a better person, without promise of any monetary reward. Only after demonstrating by his actions that he would truly use wealth to help others did Jason receive …The Ultimate Gift.
There are parallels between this story and our approach to estate planning. We call it Wealth Reception Planning™
. Through a planning process we call LifeSpan™
our clients consider carefully what impact their estate may have on those who will receive it, then develop and systematically implement thoughtful legal plans to assure that the impact will be as positive as possible.
Since many beneficiaries—the “Receivers”—are responsible adults who share their parents’ values, we don’t look for ways to control from the grave. Rather, we find ways to move the estate to the Receivers and give them all legal advantages; give it in the way an informed beneficiary wants to receive it. Examples include protecting the wealth from potential divorces or lawsuits (which can happen to the best children) or, for a Receiver who is doing well and likely to grow whatever they inherit, keeping the inheritance from adding to his or her own taxable estate. Then our ongoing Family Education Program™
helps pre-equip those responsible Receivers with the knowledge necessary to take full advantage of the benefits and tools built into the plan.
Since many of us may have a Receiver who is not ready for financial responsibility, some families are creative like Red. They plan so that if death occurred today, the transfer will do what is good for the beneficiary…like medicine. Then, since most clients have many years left, we invest the time still available to us in enhancing and facilitating communication with—and the transfer of values and wisdom to—that Receiver. Over time, as we see growth in his or her life, the legal plan evolves accordingly. These clients get the privilege of doing and seeing while living what Red Stevens had to delegate to Mr. Hamilton.
Wealth Reception Planning™ It’s an entirely different approach to estate planning. Equipping your mature, responsible heirs with added benefits and tools; protecting other heirs from their inexperience or lack of judgment; and taking all steps necessary to assure that your ‘true wealth’ will be received.
As you plan, focus not merely on tax-free transfer of money and property, but on a vision of received Wealth and Wisdom.
© 2007 Curt W. Ferguson